Review: Fender Noventa Series Jazzmaster

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Review: Fender Noventa Series Jazzmaster

Words by Will Brewster

Fender Music Australia | RRP: $2,199

It may lack the iconic tones of the Stratocaster or the workhorse appeal of the Telecaster, but the Jazzmaster might just be the quiet overachiever out of Fender’s 1950s electric designs.

The guitar’s offset contours, distinctive tremolo system and intricate switching system may have garnered its fair share of naysayers when marketed towards jazz guitarists in the ’50s and ’60s, but in the decades that have followed, the Jazzmaster has been bestowed with a much cooler identity thanks to its association with seminal alternative, indie and grunge outfits of the ’80s and ’90s.

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Today, the Jazzmaster ranks among one of the most popular instruments in the Fender catalogue, with the brand pushing their maiden offset onto the market harder than ever in recent times through the Vintera, American Ultra, American Professional II and Acoustasonic range. They now look to keep the ball rolling even further with their new limited edition Noventa Jazzmaster: a triple P-90 equipped model that serves as one of the most practical, no-fuss Jazzmasters ever produced by the brand.

Fender have obviously designed the Noventa range with live performance in mind, and that ethos is immediately apparent when you’ve got the Noventa Jazzmaster in your hands. The offset contours of the guitar’s alder body make for a comfortable, ergonomic playing experience whether you’re seated or standing, while the maple neck features a Modern C neck profile with a slight taper down towards the high frets, ensuring your wrist remains fatigue-free and ready to shred at any given minute.

As with most modern Mexican-made Fenders, the Noventa range makes use of either maple or pau ferro for a fretboard tonewood, the latter of which possesses a similar look, tone and feel to rosewood. This is complemented with a 9.5″ fretboard radius and 21 medium jumbo frets, both of which help give the guitar a much more contemporary feel without compromising on the classic aesthetics you’d expect from a Jazzmaster.

Compared to vintage-style necks, bending is a breeze on this neck and the size of the frets gives you a no-choke guarantee, while the tapered neck and fretboard radius ensures that chords and lead lines are easily manageable, even for those with smaller hands.

If there are any two aspects of the Jazzmaster’s design that are deemed as contentious among some players, it’d surely be the guitar’s tremolo and switching system. Despite playing a pivotal role in the birth of shoegaze, the floating tremolo system is prone to causing a nuisance when pushed too hard by making the strings pop out of the saddle, while the roll-off Lead and Rhythm circuit controls located on the top bout of the guitar can be confusing for some players who are uninitiated with its function.

With the Noventa Jazzmaster, Fender strategically remedy these quirks to make for a guitar that’s far more practical for those players seeking to enjoy the Jazzmaster’s slick design without navigating the nuances of the original. The tremolo system is paired with a study Adjust-o-Matic style bridge for superior tuning stability, whereas the finicky switching controls are subbed off in favour of a simple five-way pickup selector switch.

These tweaks, while not exactly a groundbreaking development from Fender, definitely benefit the overall playability of the guitar, and help make the Noventa Jazzmaster an instrument that everyone can enjoy. Shoegazers will be stoked to hear that the tremolo arm is still very capable of all the flutter-strumming you can throw at it, while the inclusion of a five-way pickup selector switch makes for a logical modification to suit the needs of the modern player.

Another of the Noventa Jazzmaster’s biggest draw-cards is the inclusion of three Noventa M-P90 pickups in the neck, middle and bridge position. These pickups are designed to deliver extra output, and boast some rather impressive touch sensitivity that can really benefit the dynamics of your picking technique, and they sound absolutely glorious when saturated in a thick fuzz or treated with warbling modulation pedals.

The neck pickup features similar sonic characteristics to that of the Stratocaster’s first pickup position, delivering crisp cleans that lend themselves to slippery leads and soulful rhythm playing. Positions two and three, meanwhile, see the middle pickup come into play and inject some fat warmth into your tone, and it’s these two positions you’ll likely opt for when playing single-note runs or jazzy chord voicings.

For those seeking a little more grit and twang from your tone, you’ll be immediately rewarded when you flip over to positions four and five, which excels in crunchy, aggressive rhythm playing and twangy leads alike. It’s worth noting that these MP-90 pickups are hotter than your typical Fender single-coils, so you might need to reach for your tone or volume knob to tame some spiky tones on occasion, but for the most part, they’re pretty damn reliable.

Another key feature of the Noventa range is the exciting array of finishes each guitar comes with, and it’s arguable that the Jazzmaster boasts the best looking colours of the bunch. The particular model that we reviewed came out of the box in a classic ’70s-inspired Walnut finish to accompany its pau ferro fretboard, but if that’s not quite up your alley, there’s also Fiesta Red and Surf Green options with maple fretboards to choose from.

Even when stripped down to its bare essentials, the Jazzmaster is a guitar that continues to impress and inspire, and the new Noventa model functions as clear proof of this. It’s a killer hybrid of vintage and modern, packing red-hot tones via its three MP-90 pickups and exuding sophistication and class thanks to its sleek design, making for a wonderful choice for a players on the hunt for a gigging workhorse guitar.

Find out more about the Noventa Series via Fender Music Australia.