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What makes a Jazz Bass a “jazz” bass?

Discussion in 'Basses [BG]' started by Chicory Blue, Feb 13, 2018.

  1. Chicory Blue

    Chicory Blue

    Oct 9, 2016
    Knowing what little I do of jazz music, I’m a hair perplexed with the nomenclature. Few things strike me as being so emblematic of jazz music as the noble upright bass and its timeless thump, often more felt than heard, supporting the band from behind with a meandering staccato walk.

    Meanwhile, I associate Jazz basses with their cutting properties, their musical highs and their ability to hold a single note for two weeks at a time, if necessary. The rhetoric ‘round BG-land, best I can tell, is if you want to thump, you go with a Precision.

    So, what’s the deal? Why was the Jazz bass conceived, and is it really more appropriate for jazz music than its older brother?

    Feed me knowledge.

    Pbassmanca likes this.
  2. Gorn


    Dec 15, 2011
    Queens, NY
    The wikipedia page on it explains the reasoning behind the name and the configuration pretty well.
    saabfender, Charlzm, Gord_oh and 4 others like this.
  3. Spidey2112


    Aug 3, 2016
    More the player, than a specific instrument... most of the greats could probably play an anchored rubber band better than I play normally, even on my best day...
  4. maplenecked

    maplenecked Supporting Member

    Dec 1, 2017
    Makes me feel fancy. Certainly fancier than how “Cutlass” or “Caprice” makes me feel.
  5. Chicory Blue

    Chicory Blue

    Oct 9, 2016
    Shhhhh. I’m sure it does but I want to hear it in the form of several very confident but differing opinions peppered with fascinating trivia and a random GIF. c:

  6. GrapeBass


    Jun 10, 2004
    Graphic designer: Yorkville Sound
  7. mellowinman

    mellowinman Free Man

    Oct 19, 2011
    For me, it has to say "Fender Jazz Bass" on the headstock, but my opinion is of absolutely no value on this.
  8. bucephylus

    bucephylus Supporting Member Commercial User

    Aug 18, 2002
    General Manager TecPadz LLC
    You are actually asking several Q’s. I will make a feeble attempt to separate them.

    First, the name. It was just something Leo decided in his shop back when Fender wasn’t much of a big thing and nor were bass guitars. It was purely his way of saying the two pickup instrument had some extra features. So, let’s not get too carried away about the name. Please.

    Second, regarding the bass in Jazz music. Sure the upright held sway for a handful of decades. But, Jazz has also gone in a variety of directions in the last 4 decades. The bass guitar is a bit more suited to some of those than the upright; some of those obvious, others a bit more surprising. Miles Davis insisted that his players move to electric following Ron Carter’s stint; and that whole school is pretty much home turf for the bass guitar. Working Big Bands are getting fewer due to practical aspects of paying 21+ musicians for a dance gig; but it also turns out that the bass guitar has a more driving capability behind big horn sections than the upright. The big broad beautiful voice of the upright is more well suited to small ensemble play, where it’s voice is less lost in the mix. Etc.

    Sure, you can cite exceptions to what I wrote above; but, those are my practical $0.019. I play both BTW. And, my last working Big Band stint, I was specifically instructed to bring the bass guitar for the audition. FWIW. I really wish there was more of a market for modern Big Band gigs. That’s my favorite ensemble, and it has so much huge potential to move forward.

    Jazz is not yet a dead music, though it certainly seems headed in that direction of late. Getting into arguments about what is Jazz is a pretty big waste of time. In fact, if someone engages in that discussion, then they fundamentally don’t understand Jazz. So, I won’t engage in arguments defining Jazz as having the upright bass. That’s where I’ll check out.
  9. Bijoux


    Aug 13, 2001
    Every bass is a Jazz bass... unless it is a P bass! :D
  10. Funky Ghost

    Funky Ghost Translucently Groovy

    Posted with a certain amount of assertion that can only come from confident google-foo and blatant plagiarism.

    The Fender Jazz Bass was conceived in 1959 as a deluxe-model bass to go with the Jazzmaster guitar line introduced two years earlier. After considering the name “Deluxe Model,” it was renamed Jazz Bass to appeal to jazz bassists; unexpectedly, though understandably, converted upright players preferred the wider neck of the P-Bass.

    Oh, yeah.

  11. JRA

    JRA my words = opinion Supporting Member

    What makes a Jazz Bass a “jazz” bass?

    the player. ;)
  12. lz4005


    Oct 22, 2013
    That is it 100%.
    It's just a name.

    If OP wants Fender instrument names to make sense they're going to fall down a bad hole when they get to the Custom Tele (tele with binding), the Tele Custom (tele with neck humbucker), and the Custom (recycled Electric XII parts turned into a 6 string). None of which were "custom" in the sense that they were mass produced with no input from individual buyers.

    Not to mention the fretless Precision bass, which makes no etymological sense at all.
  13. Son of Wobble

    Son of Wobble

    Mar 8, 2010
    Brings to mind Seinfeld's joke about the Ford Ltd: "It's limited to the amount they can sell."
  14. Just a name Leo came up with for his two pickup “deluxe, or Cadillac model”. Jazz guitarists didn’t flock to the jazzmaster either.
    Maybe a more interesting question would be how the Stingray name came about?.
  15. pbassnut

    pbassnut Supporting Member

    Sep 27, 2004
    Falls Church, VA
    Not really ... you can play just about anything with either a Jazz or a Precision, IMHO.
  16. JGbassman

    JGbassman Supporting Member

    May 31, 2011
    Anyone that has researched the history of Fender in his start knows the clinical reasoning and figured he would follow suit in the same tradition as the broadcaster, er telecaster (stupid drums) and the precision bass.

    The Jazz was the evolution of the Precision, much the same way the Strat was as well, with a refined body more comfortable to play sitting, a slimmer sleeker neck for faster playing and more friendly for guitarists, and the options of different pickups.

    I actually play a jazz bass different than I do a precision. I tend to play more notes on the Jazz, and play them in my more progressive bands. The growly scooped sound is a favorite of mine. My p bass gets the gigs with my straight ahead, four on the floor rock gigs. Noting cuts a mix like a P bass, but I'm still more comfortable on a jazz bass.

    I'm curious if anyone else plays differently on a jazz compared to a Precision.

    In a nut shell a jazz to me means, sleeker, faster, more comfortable with a larger sonic pallet to choose from. In all ways it's a more refined bass. Notice I did not say better.

    I can see why Leo attempted to focus on the Jazz group, this was built to be better voiced and refined in his mind. Leo was an inventor, businessman, and of course salesman as well. Getting the right group of people behind an instrument would sell far more than a newspaper or radio add ever could, and he knew that. Tv was a relitively new invention, and his products seen on tv was like money in the bank. Mama didn't raise no dummy.
  17. The shape, because Fender made a Jazz with double Precision pickups:

  18. pcake

    pcake Supporting Member

    Sep 20, 2011
    Los Angeleez
    er... is that a capybara with ducklings in a bathtub... or are they baby swans...?
  19. JGbassman

    JGbassman Supporting Member

    May 31, 2011
    I'm in this camp as well. The silhouette dictates if it's a jazz or precision to me, not what it's loaded with. If that wasn't the case, you would have to call a rickenbacker a jazz bass if you put jazz bass pickups in it, and we all know that would be silly.
    Chicory Blue and Killed_by_Death like this.
  20. Funky Ghost

    Funky Ghost Translucently Groovy

    And why does that capybara have gas?

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