Sunday, May 19, 2013

New Jazz Bass builds, New chocolate, New tones

After accumulating misc jazz bass parts over the last few years, I have apparently reached some sort of critical mass, and completed two new basses in as many days. 

I stated out by cannibalizing my first Funster jazz bass, made up of parts I have had on various basses  over the last 6-7 years. This particular black with tortoise bass, in this configuration for probably 3 years, started off with what has been my favorite neck of all my basses, a very thin and lightweight Jazz-style neck that I had spray finished (very badly) with poly and a Fender Precision decal, and installed on a Precision body. It always looked horrible up close, but felt so good to play that I never messed with it. In the meantime, I had always had issues with a black Mexi Jazz Bass body I played for years, feeling it lacked bottom end (for 15 years it was matched with a wonderful Moses graphite neck, which is now on my workhorse active Deluxe Jazz bass). I tracked down a mint black Allparts body, a set of Dimarzio Quarter Pounder 3's (very hot and overwound for a grittier tone) and a decent passive Varitone setup. The result was a a fantastic Jazz bass with a super comfortable neck, low action, and lots of bright round wound growl, but very full thanks to he Varitone settings). It has been my main backup bass for my Zep gigs (when I can take a backup), and I always pull it out for a few tunes in the set, especially Black Dog and The Ocean.

I have loved this neck so much that I decided to use it to build THE killer totally vintage stock-style passive '62 Sunburst bass with the classic fat warm tone. But the brighter 70's tone is a great one for the arsenal, and I have digging the look of some if the gold anodized pickguard models from the late 50's-early 60's (both Jazz and Precision styles). The two Allparts necks I just finished in vintage, slightly relic'd satin amber nitro will be used to make a matched pair of black/gold anodized/maple Jazz and Precision basses, starting with this Jazz.

A very nice stainless fret guard to clean frets without ruling the neck finish.

The bridge required some fitting, including some copper tape strips to bring the height up.

This first build was pretty straight forward and quick, just add Hipshot tuners on the new neck and a brass nut I had kicking around for at least three decades. The work was in installing and setting the neck properly, my first old-style slotted truss rod nut located at the bottom of the neck. I thought I might need to route out a bit in the body for the truss nut adjuster, but when I took off the old tortoise pickguard I found, to my surprise, that it already had this route (so the paint would not be ruined).

The results: A very straight neck, although a little chunkier than my favorite Jazz necks. Allparts neck and body, licensed pickups and tuners, except for the Chinese pickguard it's almost completely Fender-legal (except for the decal, of course)! The neck is also a bit heavier with the vintage-style Hipshot tuners, and I really hate neck dive, so I might try a heavier bridge to balance it better. I still get that great overwound growl, but probably the lowest action of any bass I have owned. Played thru my single 12" bass amp, the tone is very full with tone if presence and bottom, and I look forward to opening it up on the big rig with bands in June. 

The Sunburst Jazz has been an obsession for a while now. Ever since I got deep into the classic rock band scene, and especially since playing in Zeppelin tributes, JPJ's Sunburst Jazz was the model for the hybrid Deluxe Jazz I built and use on all Zep gigs (not to mention Noel Redding's bass, another famous example of this model). The bass has Fender Deluxe active electronics, which gives me complete tone control regardless of the amps I get stuck using (when not my own gear), and I am still looking for that killer warm vintage classic tone. As with all builds, it's all about materials - I don't MAKE basses, I ASSEMBLE them - so like great cuisine it's mostly about the ingredients. 

I know I had a great neck (and, to my surprise, upon removing it I found it was a Mighty Mite, which changes my opinion of them quite a bit), but it had a horrible (self inflicted) finish, especially on the fingerboard and frets. Having he neck off gave me the opportunity to make amends, and after considerable sanding and steel wooling there was still enough finish to leave as satin (instead of reshooting in gloss). I has tinted the headstock and applied the Funster decal a couple of years ago, and although the amber is pretty bright, it matches the body well (a nice Alder nitro-finished body I found on eBay - it's stamped W.W., not sure who that is).

I have some noise issues with my active Jazz, so on this one I shielded all of the cavities with copper tape, and ran some extra ground wires to each section. For pickups I had another set of hand-made, vintage spec scatter-wound pickups from the same guy who made the set in my Funster vintage Precision. The pots and plate I got complete on eBay for under $20 (the good CTS stuff), and I replaced the capacitor with a Russian oil-in-paper .047 I found on eBay for under $2 (I bought a few different ones, and plan in soldering some clips to my precision so I cam do a complete capacitor test to once and for all resolve the capacitor tone debate, watch for video soon). The bridge is a Hipshot, but  not a high-mass model; the vintage basses all had thin metal bridges, and I want authentic round tone, not hours of bright sustain.

The results: wowzers! Fuller with more bottom than I expected, but very warm (even with Rotosound roundwounds), and with an already proven neck, I am very pleased! The weight is good, and there is no beck dive, so it's very comfortable. It turns out the set of black plastic knobs I had we're for split-shaft pots, so I had to order better ones with screws and brass fittings, so it's not 100% complete cosmetically, but after neck setup and intonating I am very happy.

I have now added three great Jazz basses in the last couple if months to my arsenal (including the white Pepito bass) and will drag all three to my Zep gigs in June to put them through their paces. 

CHOCOLATE: At a recent wholesale food importer sale I attended, I found a bar of Valrhona 70% dark. I have not tried this brand or this particular bar before, and it's quite impressive. Not too sweet, but he chocolate is super rich and creamy, melting nicely on the tongue. I have been going thru it slowly to enjoy it, and rate it up there with Poco Dolce's Olive Oil and Sea Salt and Le Belge 72% as my all-around favorites (so far). Each great, like my three new basses, but each with a unique feel and tone.

No comments:

Post a Comment