The Fender Jazz Bass was launched in 1960 as a bass companion to the Jazzmaster guitar, as Fender thought the neck design would appeal more to jazz musicians- the neck is quite thick but with a narrow fingerboard. It also has a similar sound to basses such as the Rickenbacker 4001, with lots of midrange and a bright tone.
It is also similar in style to the Jazzmaster- it has sculpted edges, a contoured body and the famous "offset waist" design of the Jazzmaster, and later the Jaguar. Stylistically the only difference to the Jazzmaster is the top half, where there are two Stratocaster-style offset cutaways. The Jazz was launched in 1960 as the Deluxe Model. Its original intention was to persuade jazz bassists who used double bass to switch to bass guitar.
It has a Strat-style headstock where the Precision Bass has a Telecaster-style one, a Strat-shape scratchplate, and, as previously mentioned, a Jazzmaster-meets-Strat body shape. It has two single-coil pickups and three controls- two volume and one tone. The Jazz Bass has 20 frets as opposed to the 21 or 22 that most basses have. It is marketed as being good for slap playing as well as conventional finger-style playing due to the versatile tonal range.
The pickups are oppositely wound from each other, so when both are at full volume the two pickups act like a single humbucker. This tonal range means the Jazz is ideal for power trios and smaller bands which need a prominent bass sound.The Jazz Bass is a very widely emulated design due to its practical design and versatility. The Jazz has been copied widely, by companies from the entry-level budget market to high-end, limited production manufacturers such as Sadowsky.
The Jazz has been very widely used, perhaps more so than any other bass guitar. It has been used over the years by Jaco Pastorius (who owned a battered model with no scratchplate and a chipped and scratched finish), Duff McKagan of Guns N'Roses and Velvet Revolver, Geddy Lee of Rush, Tom Araya of Slayer (who used a Jazz Bass at some of Slayer's earlier gigs, and before his own signature BC Rich bass was launched), Flea of the Red Hot Chili Peppers, Sid Vicious of the Sex Pistols, John Entwistle of The Who and John Paul Jones of Led Zeppelin (who used a 1961 Jazz for his session work before Led Zeppelin).
Currently there are eight lines of Jazz Basses available- the Standard Series, American Deluxe Series, American Standard Series, American Vintage Series, Highway One Series, Classic Series, Custom Classic Series and Deluxe Series, all with several colours available. There is also a 24-fret model, available with 4 or 5 strings. As of 2005 there is also a Jaguar bass, which is similar to the Jazz Bass but with some additional switches controlling the electrics, much like on the Jaguar guitar. (Indeed, one of the main reasons the Jaguar has never been as successful as other Fender guitars is the presence of complex electrics which make it harder to set up and use).
The Jazz Bass is still made today and is as popular as ever.
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