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Fender Jazz Bass History

The very first mass produced and commercially successful electric bass guitar was introduced to the world in 1951. The Fender Precision Bass quickly became successful, mostly since it solved many of the problems upright bassists were plagued with until that time (for more on that, check out: The Fender Precision Bass: The Low End That Shook The World). Despite the success of the P-Bass, by the close of the '50s, Fender was smart enough to know they needed to add something else to their arsenal.

Enter the Jazz Bass.

The Jazz Bass was intended to be a deluxe bass model. While the P-Bass was straightforward and easily accessible for all players from all genres, the Jazz Bass was designed with a different aura. The Jazz Bass was made with an offset body shape, intended to be extra comfortable and playable when a player is seated. It also had a slimmer neck width at the nut—a feature guitarists switching over to bass found quite endearing. Of course, the sound was also different than that of a P-Bass, thanks to two, eight-pole-piece pickups. The neck pickup added warmth and fullness to the tone, while the bridge pickup had a more raspy bass sound.

The first production Jazz Bass was built in March of 1960. It came in a standard sunburst finish with a tortoiseshell pickguard. It had a rosewood fingerboard with clay dot inlays, a finger rest mounted below the G string, and big chrome covers over the neck pickup and bridge pickup. This inaugural Jazz Bass allowed you to adjust volume and tone for each pickup, affording the opportunity to create any manner of low-end sound a player desired. But the Jazz Bass's sound was not only a function of its pickups—it was also attributed to the increased mass of its body.

The Jazz Bass underwent a number of design modifications over the next decade and a half, but it always remained true to itself. Alongside the P-Bass, the Jazz Bass began Fender's rule of the bass universe. To this day, there are countless artists from every genre who use the Jazz Bass as their number one.

Popular Jazz Bass Models

Player Jazz Bass Fretless: For the bassist that wants performance without breaking the bank, the Player series has you covered. Moreover, this particular Player gem has a somewhat special design – that is without frets. If you fancy yourself a challenge, appreciate the smooth tone and feel of a fretless, or are very used to an upright bass, this fretless Player Jazz Bass is for you.

Deluxe Active Jazz Bass: Moderately priced and beautifully designed, the Deluxe Active Jazz Bass boasts dual vintage Noiseless Jazz Bass pickups with a three-band EQ and active/passive switch. The versatility is unmatched in the bass world. Coupled with the excellent offset design of the Jazz Bass body and the four saddle HiMass bridge, this bass can handle anything.

Vintera '70s Jazz Bass: The Fender Vintera series brings the golden era of Fender into the present day. This '70s inspired Jazz Bass is a testament to Fender's incredible, longstanding craftsmanship. The Jazz Bass offset body, topped by a black pickguard with metallic corner, gives it a classic Jazz Bass look, as well as comfortable playability. And Fender re-voiced the pair of single-coil Jazz Bass pickups to ensure vintage tone.

American Professional Jazz Bass: Traditional Jazz Bass flavor, combined with contemporary specs, the American Professional series creates an overall excellent instrument. Its American built and very fairly priced for what it offers. It's slim, ultra-fast neck, is satin finished in a modern "C" shape. It's supported with Posiflex graphite rods for the utmost stability, from nut to bridge. V-Mod Jazz Bass pickups with mixed alnico magnet types complete the American Professional Jazz Bass.

American Ultra Jazz Bass: The top of the American-made production Fender lines, the Ultra Jazz Bass features inimitable Noiseless pickups with an 18V preamp. It has a contoured neck heel and compound fingerboard radius for the best in playability, plus American Ultra adjustable truss rod wheel for easy maintenance.

Artist Signature Jazz Basses

Adam Clayton: Adam Clayton's bass playing is one of the more incredible aspects of U2. The understated, poignant low-end notes of Adam Clayton's Jazz Bass hold U2's rhythm section together tightly. This signature model has a pair of vintage-style Fender Custom Shop '60s Jazz Bass pickups, a Sherwood Green Metallic gloss finish with matching headstock, custom Adam Clayton "C" neck carve, and a headstock featuring Adam's signature—plus a set of rare '60s-style "lollipop" tuners.

Geddy Lee: In the way that many classic rockers shined light on what their instruments could do, Geddy Lee picked up the bass and made it his own. His unique style, which was enveloped in his very distinct voice and special songwriting capability, showed early on what the Jazz Bass could really do.

Flea: Flea's bass playing is an integral part of the Red Hot Chili Peppers. Their blend of funk, soul, and rock is dependent on the healthily versatile, indelibly funky bass lines Flea rolls into every song. With the flexibility needed for his playing, it's no wonder he's been enamored with the Jazz Bass.

Jaco Pastorious: Jaco was one of the most innovative bassists to ever walk the earth. His work with Weather Report, Pat Metheny, Joni Mitchell, and his solo albums, was inspirational in its dynamic individuality. Jaco knew his way around a Jazz Bass like no other—and even made his Jazz Bass fretless by cutting the frets out with a knife.

The Deluxe Bass for the Rest of Time

From 1960 on, the Jazz Bass has offered a distinctly different option from the more traditional P-Bass. It's no wonder some of the most innovative players in history have had a Jazz Bass in hand. As any of those guys—from Geddy to Flea will tell you—once you have a Jazz Bass in hand, you'll never turn back.


If you need help finding just the right gear, give us a call at 1-800-472-6274, where real musicians are standing by with the musical knowledge and expertise to help you satisfy all your musical needs!