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This article was originally published in issue #43
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Brand-new from Fender USA we have the rather superb American Elite Jazz Bass, soon to be covered in my paw prints! This particular bass is so new in fact that we have it in on loan from our friends at the music store DV247 - which is why we have left the protective wrapping on the instrument too, in case you were wondering.
The Elite Jazz comes with some classic Jazz options that include block markers, maple fretboards and alder bodies (ash in the case of the natural gloss finish versions) and our sample came in a cool Olympic White finish with a rosewood fretboard and block inlays.
The finish is a gloss polyurethane coating which is hard wearing and good for the road. The models all feature a maple neck that has a “compound” back shape that is described as a “modern C to D” carve. It’s super comfortable to play and the rosewood fretboard bears 21 perfectly installed medium jumbo frets. No overhang here and very smooth to the touch, as you would expect of any premium instrument.
Neck positions are marked with pearloid blocks and up the top of the fingerboard we have a bone nut installed. Regarding the neck itself, the finish is satin and smooth around the back and there’s a very cool glossy urethane finish on the front of the headstock that makes it shine under stage lights.
The electronics are bang up to date, with the new fourth-generation noiseless coils in the standard Jazz bass positions. They are wired to a Fender 18V active circuit with a three band equaliser that gives access to Treble, Mid and Bass cut and boost. If you want to switch 'all that active stuff' out and go to a classic vintage Jazz vibe, then a flick of a mini toggle switch will also give you access to your passive tone control with nothing else between your amplifier and you.
Fender has opted for lightweight tuning keys with tapered shafts and a Fender Hi-Mass bridge that allows top-loading or string through body mounting, whichever you prefer. It's nice to have the choice.
The American Elite Jazz feels actually great to play and as expected that neck is slim and skinny, however my only reservations about this particular example is that the action was a little bit on the high side for my tastes. I'd like to bring it down slightly for more of a brisk playing style.
Included in your purchase comes a really nice flight case that looks like it is built to counter moderate attacks from baggage handlers the world round. This is a very welcome inclusion. Inside, Fender supply a nice stash of case candy including a lead, tools and a leather strap.
When it comes to shopping for a Jazz bass the market is well and truly swamped with instruments based pretty much on the original concept, but this one can hold its head up with most and has that all-important name on the headstock, which means it will always have a resale value should you decide to move it on at some later stage. Competition is fierce, however. Bass designs have advanced a lot in recent years and this does carry a bit of a premium price tag. Still, if what you really want is 'the real thing' – this is it, in its latest incarnation and it's pretty darned good.