Sunday, November 7, 2010

TURNING 50

It is the year for many 50th anniversaries. Turning 50 means something – it heralds a passage of time-tested accomplishment. It is symbolic of resilience, achievement and recognition – that you have stayed in the game, and survived. Yet it may also be a milestone of excellence, demonstrating qualities that have been tried and tested through long years. This can be said of the Fender Jazz Bass, which turns 50 this year.


In the late 50s, Fender had a ‘P’ or Precision bass range, that smoothened the transition for many upright players to make a switch to electric bass. The Jazz Bass was first conceived in 1959, and had a rounder (maple) neck shape, compared with the P-Bass. It had a 34 inch scale, and two single-coil pick-ups which hum-cancelled when both were on full. This instrument was well known for its very mid-range punchy sound. No one can also forget the distinctive chrome bridge and pick-up covers.

The Jazz Bass, like many 50s, has withstood the test of time. Today it is played by the likes of Marcus Miller and other leading bass exponents, like Jaco Pastorius, Larry Graham, John Paul Jones and Anthony Jackson. Distinct styles were developed based on the Jazz Bass. Pastorius removed the frets off his Jazz Bass with a butter knife, and filled in the slots and dinks with plastic wood and boat epoxy. He called his modified fretless bass the “Bass of Doom”, and recorded several solo albums.

The Fender Jazz Bass has survived many competitors and pretenders. Having played this instrument recently (in Korea), I could not help but re-experience what it was that made this a versatile instrument in any Rock, Jazz, R&B or fusion setting. It is truly one of the greats.

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