Fender Geddy Lee Jazz Bass

Fender Geddy Lee Jazz Bass

Year: 2004

Made In: Japan

Specs: Alder body, maple neck & fretboard

Electronics: Fender single-coil J pickups, passive circuit

Controls: Volume, volume, tone

The Geddy Lee Jazz Bass is generally highly regarded and, when offered this one in a trade, I was quite interested to try it out. Indeed, it’s a very nice take on the classic design, the slim neck is particularly noteworthy. As ever with Fender Japan, the build quality was excellent and the whole package works very well. If you were to have only one Jazz bass, then this one would be a sterling candidate for the position.

For me, the ESP is the King of Jazz Mountain and I suspect that the Geddy would be with me for a short time and that’s the way it turned out. It’s a very nice bass but just wasn’t the #1 Jazz so I eased it out the door in another trade a few months later.

Warwick Streamer LX Jazzman

Warwick Streamer LX Jazzman

Year: 2009/2004

Made In: Germany

Specs: Ash body with maple top, three-piece ovangkol neck, wenge fingerboard

Electronics: MEC MM & J pickups, MEC 3-band preamp

Controls: Volume with push/pull for active and passive circuit, Pickup blend, Bass cut and boost,  Mid cut and boost, Treble cut and boost, three-way switch for MM parallel/single coil/series

The other half of a tale of two Warwicks. This started life as an fretless Jazzman with an ebony fingerboard but I swapped necks with a fretted LX, which is covered in greater detail elsewhere. The regular P & J setup of the LX sounds great fretless and the Jazzman is a hugely powerful and versatile system fretted. Everyone’s a winner, baby, that’s the truth.

While it covers a lot of the same ground as the Stingray and Godlyke, it sounds very different from both. The MEC MM pickup is brash and aggressive in ways the EBMM or Bartolini in those basses just aren’t. Coupled with the three way switch, the MM pickup alone is more than enough for any task. Factor in the meaty sound of the J pickup and then the three-band EQ and you’ve got a really dynamic bass which still has that Warwick growl underpinning every tweak of the controls. There are so many usable and distinctive tones, it can almost be too much. It doesn’t have a signature sound, it has loads it does really well instead.

As ever, with Warwick, it’s a very comfortable bass to play. The 2004 neck is from their era of huge D shapes and it certainly does feel quite huge the first time you play it. I find it to be a very comfortable neck, however. The narrow Jazz sized nut combined with the sheer bulk of the depth of the neck is actually very easy on the hands. The fretboard is almost flat. Again, this is a big departure from old Fenders but the kind of thing you adjust to quickly and instinctively. The Streamer body shape sits well on a six pack or the beeriest of bellies, again featuring an arched back back common to the model.

If you were to have just one bass for every occasion, this one would have to be close to the top of the list.

Alembic Orion

Alembic Orion

Year: 2004

Made In: USA

Specs: Mahogany body with purpleheart & maple stringers, walnut top, five-piece maple & purpleheart neck, ebony fretboard

Electronics: Alembic MXY pickups, 2-band EQ

Controls: Volume, blend, bass cut & boost, treble cut & boost

Every Alembic is a one-of-a-kind. They’re very special instruments and that’s obvious from the moment your eyes land on one. I think it’s fair to say this one has a lot going for it even if the set-neck Orion isn’t one of their more exotic models. This is one of the few Orions made with their Crown headstock and not many come with the fretboard ovals either. It was commissioned by a shop in the Netherlands originally.

Unplugged, it sounds very different to your average ash/alder body & maple neck bolt-on. It’s a much, much tighter sound with great projection. It feels a little different too. It’s got a seriously solid vibe to it, without being overly heavy, everything about it has substance. The Orion is a great body shape, I think, which balances well. Upper neck access is incredible and the neck is quite traditional in terms of size and shape. It’s really nice to play.

As Alembics go, this is pretty straightforward, electronically. It doesn’t have filters (yet), just a relatively standard 2-band EQ with high and low end cut and boost. Having said that, it’s not short on variety, there are a huge range of tones at your fingertips. The pickups are slightly further apart than a J bass, for example, the neck pickup is closer to the neck, the bridge pickup closer to the bridge. This gives you a naturally wider scope of sound to play with. A lot of the money you pay for Alembics goes into the electronics and, even at a high level, this is readily apparent. The blend pot is useful to the full extent of its travel. Really small tweaks make really big differences. This is also reflected in the other controls, minor changes have a big influence on the sound. There’s a huge amount of low end naturally, and the whole thing reeks of quality. The MXY pickups really reflect the tight sound you hear unplugged. It’s a really clean, articulate sound but there’s enough output to drive any amp into delicious dirt.

We call this one “El Presidente”.

Warwick Streamer LX

Warwick Streamer LX

Year: 2004/2009

Made In: Germany

Specs: Maple body, three-piece ovangkol neck, ebony fingerboard

Electronics: MEC P & J pickups, MEC 2-band preamp

Controls: Volume with push/pull for active and passive circuit, Pickup blend, Bass cut and boost, Treble cut and boost

A tale of two Warwicks. The Streamer is, in my mind, one of the great basses. It’s a wonderfully balanced and comfortable design with a lovely, aggressive tone which cuts through the thickest mix. I’m very much a fan.

This fretless is a mix of two basses. Originally, the body was a black and with a fretted neck, made in 2004. It was my first Warwick. It had seen a fair bit of action and needed a bit of TLC but it converted me to its wondrous German ways.

A few years later, I picked up the Streamer Stage 1 covered elsewhere and the two were tonally different, but close enough still to cover a lot of the same ground. A few years later again, I was fortunate enough to pick up a fretless Streamer Jazzman LX made in 2009.

There were some problems with the finish on the black body, so I decided to have it refinished in white and, when it returned, struck upon the idea of swapping the necks. It worked well, I preferred the sound of the P&J with the fretless neck and the Jazzman offered a range of new fretted Warwick tones I hadn’t had before. I think I’ll leave them like this for the foreseeable future.

The neck was originally unlined, but had been lined by the time I got it. This sometimes comes in handy when the standard of my fretless chops have slipped, even if it does feel a little like cheating. I think the classic Warwick growl works really well in the fretless context, even moreso than the classic Jazz tone we all know and love.

LTD DV8-R

LTD DV8-R

Year: 2004

Made In: Korea

Specs: Mahogany body, three-piece mahogany neck, rosewood fretboard

Electronics: Seymour Duncan SH4 & SH2N pickups, passive crcuit

Controls: Volume x2, tone, 3-way switch

A flying V isn’t everyone’s cup of tea but I do have a soft spot for them. I picked this up a couple of years ago in a trade and, I have to say, I have a lot of time for this guitar. This is the LTD version of Dave Mustaine’s ESP signature model. It’s a low-frills affair, but despite being the budget brand it’s high quality from one end to the other. As the ends taper to sharp points, it’s huge, almost as big as a bass. I think it’s quite understated for the type of guitar it is, but that might just be me.

As ever, you can’t go wrong with a JB pickup and that’s the cornerstone of this guitar, a great start. There’s a Jazz in the neck, probably Seymour Duncan’s best selling combination of pickups. A Tonepros bridge at one end and Sperzel locking tuners at the other means it stays in tune until you need to change strings. The Dunlop straplocks are sunk into the body, another nice touch.

The neck is chunkier than you’d expect. It’s not a 50’s style neck by any means, but there’s a lot more meat to it than many contemporary Metal guitars. Tonally, it’s a well voiced rock guitar which can go a lot dirtier if it needs to. It’s nice to play, the action can go very low without problems and, if a V rocks your boat, these are well worthy of consideration.

Fender Japan JB62-FL 3TS

Fender Japan JB62-FL 3TS

Year: 2004

Made In: Japan

Specs: Alder body, one-piece maple neck, lined fretless rosewood fretboard

Electronics: American Vintage single coils

Controls: Volume x 2, Tone

My first ever purchase from Ishibashi and a great playing and sounding Jazz bass. Fender Japan made some great instruments over the years and the prices were always hard to say no to. This was a no-frills fretless Jazz, really well built and had all the mwah you could wish for from a fretless. I had it for a couple of years before I stupidly got it into my head that I was just going to play five string basses and eased it on out the door. It’s one of the few instruments I genuinely regret moving on, a really nice piece of kit.

Bacchus 04 Empire

Bacchus 04 Empire

Year: 2004

Made In: Japan

Specs: Alder body with maple top, one-piece maple neck, rosewood fretboard

Electronics: HMC Alnico 50 & HMC Alnico III Power pickups

Controls: Volume, Tone, 3-way switch with mini-toggle for coil taps

Quite simply the best guitar I’ve ever owned.

Another inspired purchase from the u-box. I have a soft spot for humbucker and Floyd equipped Strat types, so when this model appeared without any pictures, I was happy to take a gamble as I’ve never been let down by Bacchus. I’m not sure I expected it to be quite so good however.

At its core, this is very much a Strat. It’s a comfortable, round neck and it instantly feels familiar in hand. Despite the appearance, it’s far more traditional feeling than a similar Charvel or Ibanez type for example. While clearly very easy on the eye, it’s the sound and playability of this guitar which places the Empire at the top of the heap.

The build quality is immaculate as usual and the neck features Bacchus’ side scallops, essentially a form of fretboard edge rounding, meaning it starts life with a played in feel and gets better from there. The Gotoh bridge is absolutely stable and even fine tuning adjustments are seldom required. The low profile knobs and switches are placed in what feels instinctively like the right places, your hands know where to go.

It’s tonally, however, where it really shines. At one point, while recording, I did comparison testing between all my guitars and was surprised by just how good the Empire sounded. It’s got bite, it’s got meat, it’s got all the sustain you’d ever need and it cleans up beautifully as you roll down the volume. The coil taps are genuinely useful and, with both pickups selected, it will out-Telecaster a Telecaster.

The Empire is as much a feat of engineering as it is a work of art.