10 of the most iconic Fender Jazz Bass players

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10 of the most iconic Fender Jazz Bass players

Jaco Pastorius Fender Jazz Bass
Words by Peter Hodgson

We're diving into some of the most iconic Fender Jazz Bass players who have contributed to the legacy of this legend of the low-end.

The Fender Jazz Bass is yet another of those classic instruments that was created for a purpose but then found utility outside that purpose. Sure, it’s great for jazz, and has been ever since it was released in 1960 (briefly as the Deluxe Model before being renamed to reflect the design elements it borrowed from the Jazzmaster guitar), but the very feature that made it appeal to jazz players – its slimmer, narrower neck – made it equally suited for genres yet to come.

Fender Jazz Bass

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Metal, psychedelia, funk, progressive rock, grunge… heck, rock as we know it didn’t even exist at the time the Jazz Bass was launched. Let’s take a look at ten players who have contributed to the legacy of this legend of the low-end. 

Craig Newman

Let’s start this list off with a local boy! Back in the day you may have seen him play in the Hey Hey It’s Saturday band, or with John Farnham, or even in the pit band for various musicals such as Lazarus, the David Bowie show. He’s performed with the Melbourne Symphony Orchestra, the British Rock Symphony, Kylie Minogue, and has even played fusion with fellow Hey Hey bandmate Simon Patterson. He’s even backed American jazz legend Larry Carlton, as you’ll see in this video where Newman’s locked-in, groove-based style is given plenty of room to sing. 

Gail Ann Dorsey

Rising to prominence as David Bowie’s secret weapon, Gail Anne Dorsey has used plenty of different basses during her career but she employs a number of Jazz Basses when playing with Lenny Kravitz, tapping into the groovier, more harmonically rich tone that the Jazz Bass is known for. Dorsey has an uncanny ability to land a note exactly on the ‘one,’ holding the rhythm down while the rest of the band is able to play around with the beat. 

Ben Ely

It’s hard to picture Regurgitator without Ben Ely’s natural-finished Jazz Bass holding down the massive groove of ‘King Foo Sing,’ – perhaps the phattest ode to fortune cookies ever committed to disc. Ely’s Jazz Bass also gets plenty of close-ups in the music video, and no doubt inspired legions of impressionable young minds to pick up the four-string beast and blast out some grooves of their own.

Jaco Pastorius

There’s no such thing as a ‘Jazz Bass greats’ list without Jaco. Fusion legend, master of the fretless bass, pioneer of all sorts of tricks with bass harmonics. Jaco played like the instrument was an extension of his body, blurring the lines between rhythm and lead instrument and performing with an easy confidence even while absolutely ripping up the fretboard. Check out this performance of ‘A Portrait Of Tracy’ with Weather Report. 

John Paul Jones

It takes a special kind of musician to stand onstage with Jimmy Page, Robert Plant and John Bonham and hold their own. John Paul Jones is that musician twice over, primarily on bass but also on keys. Jonesy’s Jazz Bass is an integral part of the Led Zeppelin sound, with its thunderous harmonic overtones providing a solid bed for Page to go ham all over while also not getting lost underneath the almighty power of Bonham’s gloriously animalistic drumming style. Here’s a great (if low-res) lesson with John Paul Jones presented in 2010 by D’Addario & Co. 

Byron Stroud

How do you match the ultra-precise metal rhythm guitar work of Fear Factory’s Dino Cazares AND Strapping Young Lad’s Devin Townsend and Jed Simon? By being Byron Stroud and strapping on a series of Fender Jazz Basses, that’s how. Stroud nailed his choice of bass so well that Imonolith producer Jason Van Poederooyen called his Fender Customer Shop Jazz ‘Like nothing I’ve ever heard. Its a killer bass. Very unique. I was extremely happy with the results of this bass sound.” You can hear those results for yourself here:

Geddy Lee

The man who sold a jillion Jazz Basses, Rush’s Geddy Lee forged his own style on the instrument, using it to find his voice when his Rickenbacker didn’t quite convey the precision needed for the band’s more progressive material. Lee’s take on the Jazz Bass tone is especially punchy, aided by an overdrive tone that is more bite than growl, and his adventurous style makes extensive use of the whole extra-comfortable neck. Here’s Lee on what makes the Jazz Bass special for him. 


Aussie-born Red Hot Chili Peppers bass god Flea has played a great many Jazz Basses over the years, and even had multiple different Fender signature models including an active Jazz Bass and a Road Worn model designed to pay tribute to one of his favourite instruments. In Flea’s hands the Jazz Bass becomes both a rhythm and a lead instrument, a clean and a dirty one, as you’ll see in this video where he sets up a clean loop to then solo over with an absolutely filthy lead tone. 

Tim Commerford

Would Rage Against The Machine or Audioslave sound as crushing without Tim Commerford’s Jazz Bass tone? Hell no! Another player who has used a variety of Jazz Basses throughout their career, Commerford’s arsenal includes natural, sunburst, white and black versions of the instrument, typically modified with a thumb rail between the neck and bridge pickups to anchor his hand for those ultra-groovy, hard-hitting unison lines with Tom Morello. These days Commerford has a signature Ernie Ball Music Man Stingray but the Jazz will always be a key part of his history. Check out the isolated bass track from ‘Killing In The Name’ to hear how Commerford explores the instrument’s dynamics and touch sensitivity.


Everyone’s favourite fluorescent bass lord from outer space, MonoNeon was recently honoured with his own Fender signature Jazz Bass, featuring humbucking pickups, an active tone circuit and the most eye-searingly bright neon yellow and orange finish. This bass is geared towards the growl, with those pickups emphasising the midrange fullness of the instrument without clouding the low end. It’s the kind of bass that’s right at home on very bass-player-driven material but also has the voice and punch for more supportive roles. 

Check out some more modern Jazz basses here.