1976 Fender Jazz Bass, as made famous by Flea (amongst many others)
Fender's second bass, and its most versatile. An absolute beauty from 1976, Olympic White naturally faded to Ivory . . . OK, it's not shell pink, but get it in the right light, strip off your top, and you're centre-stage in Stadium Arcadium.
Following launch in 1951, Fender had stuck to the Precision as its groundbreaking, and only, bass guitar for eight years. Times change, tastes change, choices are demanded. So, come 1959, Leo Fender and the team turned their attention to producing a "deluxe" alternative, launching the new Jazz Bass in 1960. Years later, Leo put it just right: “Well, it’s like a car, you know—you come out with a standard model, then you have a deluxe model—a Cadillac version.” The brilliance of the Jazz Bass lay in the introduction of both a neck and bridge pick-up - the neck pick-up delivering pretty much everything you might expect from a Precision, the bridge pick-up introducing the trebly attack so beloved across musical spaces as wide as rock and disco, or funk and punk. And the two volume knobs giving you all the opportunity to mix and merge to make the sound your sound.
The Fender Precision is everywhere, and rightly so. But if you want true sonic versatility, the Jazz Bass is the one for you. For the full story, go to Fender's own wonderful history of this guitar: Jaco, Geddy and Flea Can't Be Wrong: The Story of the Jazz Bass. The list of players Fender gives tribute to seems inconsequential compared to the 360+ you'll find on Equipboard. But what a list. Funk, disco and punk aside, "When you hear the breathtaking bass breaks by John Entwistle on the Who’s immortal “My Generation,” by John Paul Jones in Led Zeppelin’s “Good Times Bad Times” and by Geddy Lee in Rush’s “YYZ,” you’re hearing a Jazz Bass." Nice.
And, of course, there's Flea, who brings all styles together. He's famous for his 1961 Shell Pink Jazz bass, received from a fan after requesting in his online tour journal if anyone knew where he could get a pre-CBS Jazz Bass so he could be “as cool as John Paul Jones.” It's an utterly unique bass, now with its own Flea signature model. But that original has stood the test of play and time. As Flea puts it himself: "It's just a magic bass. It's been a bass for so long, I guess, it stopped being a tree a long time ago." Right with you, Flea...
And it's not just bass guitarists that love the Fender Jazz. The neck is by design incredibly narrow, and thin front to back. Any guitarist that wants to pick up the bass is going to be naturally drawn to this one. Yes, it's a bass, but it's as close to a six-string electric guitar's neck as you could wish for. Fast and easy. A guitarist's dream.
This 1976 model is an absolute gem. Originally produced in custom colour Olympic White, the lacquer has aged to a beautiful ivory. It's been lovingly looked after over the years and is in fabulous condition for its age. And it might just add Bill Wyman to the list of famous players - or at least a Rolling Stones tribute act. It comes in a case stencilled "Tumbling Dice" . . . Which opens up a Pandora's Box of provenance. Dig into it and you'll find Tumbling Dice is not an unpopular name for tribute bands. I gave up after half an hour of search results. Sometimes it's not about where it was last used, but where it will be used next. Whatever your style, if you want a vintage bass that covers all the bases (sic), then this is the one for you!
Really there's not much to add to the Fender history on this guitar. If you want to learn more, it really is a fantastic read. But there are plenty of things to love!
That beautiful offset waist, first introduced with the Duosonic, and more famous on the Jazzmaster that preceded the Jazz Bass. Designed originally for practical reasons - making it easier to play sitting down - it's now recognised as the edgier shape that has led the way for bands creating the future.
The ultra narrow, ultra thin neck, with that rosewood board still making room for those big bold block inlays.
The colour - Olympic White faded naturally to a glorious Ivory, with hints of the original in the small areas of rub-through. Relicd by life.
Geeky, I know, but the green-ink neck stamp that Fender used from 1972 - 80. So much information in 8 digits: "02" for Fender Jazz, "03" for the skunk stripe neck with rosewood board, "29" for the week of manufacture, "6" for the year, 1976, and then, smudged on our neck, a number from 1 - 7 for the day of the week. Love a good coding system!
I'm stretching it a bit with the "As made famous by Flea" tag. His 1961 original really is unique - and includes a lot of the very initial design features that characterised the newly launched model. The stacked volume and tone knobs, the tortoiseshell pickguard, the clay dot fretboard inlays. But I couldn't resist it. Flea brings together so many of the styles and sounds you can get from the Jazz Bass that he really could be my only choice from the 360 or so other guitar gods. Time to add your name to the list!
See & Hear It In Action
See and hear Flea playing and talking about his Jazz Bass Signature: As he says himself: "Woooo, taste the moment!"
Vintage Guitar Oldenberg explore the tonal range of 76 Fender Jazz to the full: It's harder than I'd thought to find footage of a 1976 Olympic White, rosewood-necked Fender Jazz. So, here's the closest I could get. It's the maple neck, but those sounds are spot on! And, this is what an Olympic White can age to when it's really seen some action!
Killing In The Name Bass Cover: Couldn't resist this! It's a reissue, the '74 Jazz Bass. But hats off to Felipe Andrade for a masterful run-through of the Rage Against The Machine classic..
Sources & Links
Jaco, Geddy and Flea Can't Be Wrong: The Story Of The Jazz Bass: The story as told by Fender. Just a fantastic source of information about the evolution (minor adaptations over complete redesigns), use (just look at the list, then add your own), and influence across the decades.
Vintage Guitar And Bass on the Jazz Bass: And more from the ever-helpful Vintage Guitar And Bass. Including a 1972 Catalogue Appearance and the full specification and parts list for the 1976 Jazz Bass.
Greg Gagliano Explains Those 1970s Fender Neck Codes: Great and helpful piece of insight into how Fender came up with and used their neck codes in the 70s. Yes, I know, geek alert! Time for my medication . . .
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