Review: Fender Player Series Jazzmaster

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Review: Fender Player Series Jazzmaster

Fender Player Jazzmaster
Words by Lewis Noke Edwards

Fender Player Series Jazzmaster | Fender Music Australia | RRP: $1,599.00

The Fender Player Series Jazzmaster is one of the latest in the brand’s long line of offsets. The Jazzmaster legacy began in 1958; designed with the intention of it taking out the top spot as “the guitar to have” after Fender’s success with the Telecaster and Stratocaster. The Jazzmaster featured unique switching capabilities to give players lead and rhythm shaping options at their fingertips, as the pedal industry was only just beginning.

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The Fender Player Jazzmaster is reminiscent of this era, while harnessing modern hum-bucking capabilities of Player Series Alnico 2 humbuckers, as well as a Modern “C” neck shape – a deviation from the bigger, vintage style necks of the late 50s.

While the Jazzmaster didn’t immediately knock Teles and Strats out of their top-tier status in the late 50s, what it did do was carve out a niche for the uniquely offset electric guitar. The Jazzmaster become the go-to for the growing world of surf rock through the 60s, before it became the weapon of choice for the alternative and grunge music that exploded out of the 90s. These 90s styles of music were ripe for reinvention, seeing players switch out the fat-sounding single coils for humbuckers and using the Jazzmaster for higher gain sounds.

The Jazzmaster was adopted by genre benders like J. Mascis og Dinosaur Jr, Kevin Shields of My Bloody Valentine and Thurston Moore of Sonic Youth, and continues to be used by artists like Neige of Alcest, Troy Van Leeuwen of Queens of the Stone Age and Jim Root of Slipknot. The trend connecting all of these artists is that their bands transcend genre, pushing boundaries – and using the Jazzmaster to do it.

The Fender Player Jazzmaster is an alder-bodied electric guitar, coated in Gloss Polyester, this specific one finished in a Candy Apple Red. The neck is maple with a Pau Ferro fretboard, with white dots indicating the 22 Medium Jumbo frets, and the guitar is complete with a 6-Saddle Vintage-Style adjustable “floating” tremolo tailpiece. The dual Alnico 2 pickups give an even and balanced response, alnico offering a lower output than ceramic pickups. Doing away with the complex lead/rhythm wiring circuits, the Fender Player Jazzmaster has master volume and tone controls and a three-position toggle. If single coil tones are your forte, the coils of the humbuckers can be split via a push-pull pot.

The Player Jazzmaster has been a success over the last few years, and it’s easy to see why. Melding everything that makes the Jazzmaster great into an accessible, revised package is a no-brainer. The most recent offering of Player Jazzmasters from Fender boast some great new colours, while retaining modern playability. The Modern “C” feels familiar but easy to grapple, with the 9.5″ radius nestling nicely between more vintage radiuses closer to 7”, but not as flat as more modern high-performance fretboards that boast 12” or so.

The synthetic bone gives a little brightness and snap, articulated by the clear pickups, as does the Pau Ferro fretboard. Pau Ferro sits somewhere between ebony and rosewood, and was a favourite of players like Stevie Ray Vaughn for its bright attack that helps with note separation. Notes of a chord sound full, with each string being articulate enough to be heard independently. The neck pickup has the classic thickness and heft of the neck position, but the Jazzmaster’s build gives it some extra snap – the bridge having a more brittle, bright tone conventionally – but it sits well amongst what you’d expect from a Jazzmaster. The split coils harness that classic Fender ‘snap’, while rolling off the tone warms things up a bit.

A Jazzmaster just feels good against your body, the offset curves sitting comfortably, and the Fender Player Jazzmaster is no exception. It’s well weighted, feeling solid when strung across your shoulder without bearing down on you over a long set, and the layout of the controls helps you focus on the playing. The guitar feels solid, the spring-y tremolo system giving the whole guitar some life, as well as the tremolo arm being available for a little extra expression if and when you need it. Tuning stability is no problem, even when wailing on the trem, or doing your best Kevin Shields impression.

A great purchase for players of all levels, the Fender Player Series Jazzmaster has its own voice, not quite “traditional Jazzmaster”, but still a warm, vintage-esque take on more modern sounds. The coil split makes the guitar tenfold more versatile, adding to an already impressive list of specs and offerings.

All in all, the Fender Player Jazzmaster is a well-designed take on the classic design. Used by a more niche group of artists, albeit one that’s been growing since 1958, the Jazzmaster is the alternative cousin of the Tele and the Strat. Aesthetically the offset body is iconic, and sonically the Fender Player Jazzmaster sits somewhere between the vintage single coils of a classic Jazzmaster and more modern high performance guitars – the hum well and truly being bucked. The layout is simple, allowing you to toggle between humbuckers or switch them to single coils for more twang, without multiple circuits and switches getting in your way! The Fender Player Series Jazzmaster is refined, modern and reliable, a fresh take on a tried and true design.

Keep reading about Jazzmasters over at Fender. For local enquiries, visit Fender Music Australia.