The amazing team at MarkBass have blended all the most sought after features by a high percentage of bassists into a single instrument with the MarkBass JP Black Lady 4 CR RW. Billed as a great example of balance, simplicity and functionality, MarkBass added a vintage look to the design while allowing total expression of any bass player thanks to our awesome MB Instrument Pre on board. Dan Veall tells us more.
Markbass is enjoying 20 years in production, and those identifiable yellow cones are very much still gracing stages across the world!
I remember when Markbass first hit the markets here in the UK with their early adoption of high-efficiency D-Class amplification in the shape of the Little Mark amplifier heads, coupled with lightweight speaker cabinets that used neodymium magnets in their drivers.
Indeed, I recall, whilst writing this review, sitting in a hotel lobby with Glenn Hughes back in 2005 discussing the 6x10 MarkBass rig he used that night. I then reflect on the more recent videos I have recorded looking at the Marcus Miller signature range of amplifiers and cabinets. Marco De Virgiliis is not a man who has rested on the laurels of being the owner of a defining brand in bass amplification. You only have to look at the broad product catalogue currently available to see that the brand is progressive.
That takes us to the box I unpacked earlier, inside, one Markbass JP Black Lady bass with an included gig bag. Italian handmade, each bass is essentially unique as they are not mass-produced, I understand from the literature. Inspect the Markbass website as there are plenty more options in the JP range alone than I have space in this review to cover! Whilst you are there, check out the Gloxy, Kimando and Kilimanjaro basses too!
Let’s start with the name. I also understand that JP has an alder body, whilst the JF models have Val Di Fiemme spruce bodies and the JG models have basswood. JP and JF get block inlays on the fretboard. The CR in the title tells us that the Bass has chrome hardware and the RW, a rosewood fretboard.
Whilst we are mentioning inlays, JP here has a super comfortable jazzy bass neck, and there’s no denying the 70’s vibe here with the mother-of-pearl block inlays and binding. JP has a bone nut too and those 20 frets are, as I would expect, beautifully set with not even a suggestion of a rough edge. Round the back, we can see the maple neck has a vintage tinted gloss polyurethane lacquer keeping with the 70’s styling.
On that subject, we can zoom straight to the electronics and see that we have two single-coil J type pickups and, yes, they are in a 70’s position. The single-coil pickups are designed to Markbass specifications. You can expect that wonderful J sound we all know and love, with a nice bit of colour in there when both pickups blended.
You’d be forgiven for thinking this is just another J bass, but noticing that we don’t have a standard offset body, in favour of something a bit more “P” will tell you that this bass is trying to cover more than the usual.. well, bases, if you excuse the pun. It is with that we turn our attention away from the custom made machine heads and die-cast bridge towards all Black Lady’s onboard electronics.
This bass has an active preamplifier, by Markbass. Besides the usual Volume, Volume, Tone jazz bass arrangement (That I have to say I am not a massive fan of, I’d prefer a no-loss pan control or selector switch for series and parallel options too) we have a three-band active equaliser. A brief look at the Markbass website and the EQ centres are: 80hz, 500hz and 8.5k and you’ll get 15dB of boost and cut from each control. There’s plenty of room for supercharging that jazz bass tone. I think the bass EQ centre works well with the punchy high bass frequencies coming from the pickups and a nice bit of sparkle from the treble. Black lady produces a modern edge to a classic sound that is easily dialled back for an authentic vintage flavour.
The EQ has a bypass option, though I’d point out that I do like that the passive tone control works with or without the active EQ.
The Markbass headstock is stylish and is very much worth a closer look if you missed it the first time in my video! You’ll see that the highlighted colour matches the body. A nice touch if you can’t decide upon a natural or matching headstock. Have both!
As these basses are luthier made in Italy, they aren’t just factory runs. There’s an attention to detail expected, and the finishing should be exemplary. Of course, with that, prices will reflect this extra treatment.
The JP basses offer some welcome touches, such as an optional Hipshot D-Tuner and a logo’d neck plate. The JF models also come in a ‘battered look’, should road-worn be your thing, and we can’t forget fretless. For a five string version, you’ll need to look at the Gloxy range as I can’t see a four string option in the J model range.
I’d have liked to have seen the action a little lower ‘as standard’, but that’s just personal taste on otherwise a super bass to have in for review.
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