You know that particular look of elation marathon runners get once they finally schlep through that bastard ribbon? The well-deserved yet borderline smug grin that painters get when they finish whitewashing an entire interior? The way the electricity in the air changes when someone cleans up a table in a pool hall? If Fender guitars were suddenly anthropomorphised into human form then the Parallel Universe series would be its wry smile. With their oldest arch nemesis out of the running for all intents and purposes, they are freer than ever to stretch their inimitable wings and feel the heady creative breeze that encircles the top of the food-chain flow languidly over every pore and feather.
The Parallel Universe Jazz Tele melds two of Fender’s most widely appreciated yet far from middling designs for what feels like the very first time. It’s the Jeff Goldblum in The Fly of the modern Fender catalogue, only nowhere near as ugly. Jazzmaster pickups and neck sit confidently and defiantly atop a distinctly ‘70s looking, three-tone-burst Tele body in the specimen I see before me, and there is something of the outlier attitude of both forebears that makes this descendant disarmingly attractive. Usually I would start talking about the spec-sheet at this point, but in this instance I might just leave off. It may simply be my particular set of tastes talking, but frankly this thing just works. Long blade headstock and floral logo in a Tele footprint is like porn to me, and the chime and versatility in the voicing almost puts its parents to shame.
Fender have made a few choices with this model in particular that prove how well they know – nay, predict – their intended audience. First things first, the finish is period-correct Nitrocellulose, meaning not only does it come out of the box with that classic mottled patina, but the wear under your arm over time will be yours and yours alone. The neck profile is that extraordinarily playable, mid-‘60s deep C that sits comfortably smack bang between ‘50s baseball bat fatness and modern, cramp-free ease. All of this in alliance with the floral logo on the headstock, subtle mint pickguard, and the fact that it comes in the highly sought after Sea Foam Green means this is a guitar for those of us who have come to Gram Parsons via Ryan Adams via Kurt Cobain and/or the other way around.
To a point, it may be risky in this day and age for Fender to go off kilter for a season. There are so many smaller, boutique builders nipping at their heels with Custom Shop quality builds that stray from the beaten track that nobody could blame them for sticking to what works. Plus, they definitely don’t want to jump the shark now. However, especially in music and literature, history has proven that sometimes when genius goes wandering off untethered, incredible and never-before-seen things unfold. For Fender, the Parallel Universe Jazz Tele is a wild interpretation of some old favourites, but by God if the risk didn’t pay off.
Hits and Misses
The absolute best of both Jazzy and Tele worlds
The fact that it just works