A Brief History of the Groove’s Greatest Weapon
The Fender Jazz Bass came into our world in 1960, originally being marketed as a companion to the popular Jazzmaster range of guitars being introduced by Fender at the time. Taking everything that made their Precision Bass great and adding a more slender, rounded neck, the Jazz Bass was intended to appeal to jazz players.
So, what could players of the Jazz Bass expect from the new instrument? Well, to this day, it remains unmatched in producing bright, crisp tones: perfect for the bassist who wants more pronounced mid-range and treble-heavy tones in their playing.
As time has gone on, the Jazz Bass has only proven itself more and more useful to musicians, becoming the bass guitar of choice for countless players, helping to shape the sound of genres from funk to heavy metal, from disco to reggae.
And now you’re wondering, where? Where have you heard this heavenly tone before? To name only a few one of this groove-sword’s most worthy knights, you’ve got: John Paul Jones, Jaco Pastorius, Geddy Lee, Flea, Greg Lake, and Larry Graham.
The fact is, if you’ve heard a record with an unforgettable, accentuated bass tone lately, you’ve almost certainly just heard a Jazz Bass in action.
Fender Jazz Bass Options: Which One is Right for Me?
I’m glad you asked. There are a wide range of options when it comes to the Jazz Bass, so we’ll look at three models from across the spectrum to give you a good idea of which one will fit you best.
1. Fender Player Series Jazz Bass
The Fender Player Series Jazz Bass is without a doubt the most affordable of the Jazz Bass series for those who want that iconic, rich Jazz Bass tone without breaking the bank.
Like all models in the Fender Jazz Bass realm, the Player series features the comfortable and instantly recognisable C-Shape alder body with a rounded, maple neck. Couple that with its 4-saddle vintage-styled bridge and control knobs, and you’ll be quickly baffled at how such a low-priced variant could sound so utterly delectable.
Beyond its impeccable design, it features 2 Player Series Alnico 5 Single-Coil Jazz Bass pickups, ensuring the rich, dynamic tone is on full display. Try the neck pickup for a deeper, more traditional sound, or switch to the bridge for that tremendous mid-range growl for which the series is known.
If the Fender Jazz Bass sounds like it would be right up your alley, and you’ll like to give it a try, there’s no better place to get started than with this modest machine. For those who prefer, there’s even a Maple fingerboard rendition too – not forgetting a sublime Fretless option.
2. Fender ’70s Jazz Bass
The Fender 70s Jazz Bass Guitar is just one example of several ‘remakes’ of the vintage models of Jazz Bass guitars that are available to you, and definitely the one that should pique your interest if your goal is to emulate the tone of those bass legends of old.
With a stunning ash body with gloss polyester coated natural finish, and the chunky, ‘70s-styled rendition of the classic C-Shape maple neck, the Fender 70s Jazz Bass Guitar radiates all the charm and cool of the legendary records it helped create, with an unmatched level of comfort to boot.
What’s more, it captures that vintage bass tone perfectly, using smooth period-correct pickups and a bridge that offers incredible intonation and sustain for those epic, classic sounds. On top of that, it’s even got a new addition to heighten its tonal greatness: the inclusion of Fender’s open gear tuning machines, which are sure to come in handy as a tool in any gigging bass player’s arsenal. Play around with it for a little while, and you’ll get the hype: soon you’ll be wondering how you ever got along with it.
To be sure, if you’re after a Jazz Bass that captures that older Fender sound well, these models are exactly what you’re looking for: they go above and beyond their call of duty, easily cementing their place as some of the finest vintage basses on the market today.
Also available is the awesome Squier Classic Vibe 70s Jazz Bass version, for those of you who want even more ‘vintage’ in your vintage-styled Jazz Bass at a more achievable price point. This model features the remarkably elegant design of the original ’70s Fender Jazz Bass, with vintage-style tuning machines as well as Fender-designed Alnico single-coil Jazz Bass pickups.
3. Fender American Performer Jazz Bass
Here you have it, folks. The Fender American Performer Jazz Bass is the absolute pinnacle of the instrument as it stands today. The American Performer series in general is perhaps the most beautiful series of Jazz Bass guitars that you can get, featuring an alder body with a stunning gloss polyurethane finish, and a maple neck with a modern “C” profile and satin polyurethane finish.
Not quite convinced yet? The American Performer series also features Greasebucket tone circuitry, which allows highs to be rolled back without losing out of gain, delivering a full-bodied mid to low end barrage. A pair of newly designed Yosemite single-coil pickups express the partnership of tonewood and electronics beautifully, honouring the subtle nuances of your playing style. On top of being quite fancy-sounding, this translates to unheard-of levels of potential practical application; not only will players be starting off with one of the best bass tones available today, but if they want to, they’ll be able to shift and change it to fit whatever sound they’re after. And believe me: you won’t be able to resist.
Over to You
It’s hard to put into words how important the Fender Jazz Bass line has been to practically every form of music it has touched. If you want a bass that features one of the greatest mid-range and treble-heavy tones, and you want a bass that allows greater versatility and dynamic capability than any other, without sacrificing its rich, clear sound, then what are you waiting for? The Fender Jazz bass awaits.
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If you like that then you might like this
Want a little more bass in your bass playing? Then you’ll need to head over to this article on the Fender Precision Bass line, the older brother of the Jazz Bass.
If you’d like to explore Fender’s other gear, be sure to check out this article on Fender Effects Pedals.
Zack Moore is a guitarist and writer with an enduring love for all things musical. He has spent the past few years writing music reviews for various outlets while working on a bachelor’s degree in History and English, winning awards for several of his articles. He is now writing for Dawsons’ Blog.