[Bass of the Week] Jazz Bastard Jazz Bass-style 08-84 and 01-14

The feature bass this week has gone through several changes to get where it is now and has been in the possession of the owner for over 30 years.

Jay Wilson writes:

This bass began as a project in 1984 when I lived in Honolulu when I was 19 with inspiration from fretless players as diverse as Jaco Pastorius and Eberhard Weber. I found the neck sitting in a box by the door of one music store and the body lying behind the counter at another. I can’t recall now which one was made by Mighty Mite, since neither has any markings. I just really loved the feel of the neck and the unique grain of the body and thought the binding made it even more special. The neck is maple with an ebony finger board and a brass nut. The body is a single solid piece of northern ash heartwood.

Phase 1 – Total 1st timer choices. I originally finished this bass in 1984 as blonde/natural finish and with no real wood working skills I just used polyurethane. My first bridge was a stud tailpiece (?) and it sucked. I quickly replaced it with a Leo Quan Bad Ass II and it made such a huge difference. The active pickups and electronics are Alembic and they work so well with the ash body. The tone pot has a broad sweep for a wide ranging tonal pallet between the two pickups. I first used pressure wound strings for less abrasion on the finger board, but now use La Bella nylon wrapped strings.

Phase II – 30 years later, in 2014, I decided I needed to renew my relationship with this instrument and give it a much more fitting finish to emphasize the grain. I stripped the poly with a heat gun and used Trans Tint dyes to make a honey-burst type stain on the top and mixed a custom stain for the back and sides, then hand finished with Tru-Oil. The back came out with these amazing coppery stripes and I had no idea how much figuring was possible on the top. I also upgraded the bridge to a Hipshot which added some extra depth.

At 34 years old, it is a bit of a relic, with filled holes from my original goofy J-bass pickup rings, ash laminate to cover the lamentable stud tail piece wholes, and old filler to patch a gouge in the back. But it now plays and sounds better than ever, through an Ampeg BA 115. Lastly, I decided to give it a whimsical name of Jazz Bastard for trying not to take itself (and myself) too seriously. FUN!!!

Well done!

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15 thoughts on “[Bass of the Week] Jazz Bastard Jazz Bass-style 08-84 and 01-14

  1. Nicely done Jay… loved the detail, and the wood is gorgeous! I’ve always been a fan of “less is more” and you nailed it. I really like that you have a history with this bass, and that you didn’t give up on it. It’s interesting how perspective changes as we get older and hopefully wiser. Great Job!!

  2. Kudo’s for refurbishing an important piece from your past……It’s seldom that someone keeps their legacy alive by overhauling a guitar or amp, but having a long term relationship with gear keeps the associated memories alive and reinforces the reasons why you played them for so long……excellent job!

  3. When it comes down to it, with all the body shapes today, the wood looks the best in the original jazz bass design. Leo got it right the first time and everyone came after.
    Beautiful guitar, great choice of wood and electronics in a simple design.
    Can’t get any better.

  4. Real nice job on the stain, finish. That does that nice piece of ash justice. Yeah seconds on the simple but classy look. Giving me thoughts about a 30 something old instrument of mine, clear maple burl with a poly finish that could be similarly upgraded. I wouldn’t have noticed the patching if you hadn’t noted them, great job!

  5. Glad to see an old warrior kept in the fight!!
    Beautiful grain and coloring, and the binding really sets it off.
    Great job! You should be proud!

  6. very nice. could you explain the difference between the badass bridge and the hipshot bridge? I’m kind of partial to those badass bridges but am open to anything that will make my basses sound better. beware, I wore out a fretless neck that never saw anything other than nylon wrapped strings. of course I am a bit hard on strings. once again, beautiful bass.

    • Hi Kevin – I had a chance to borrow and mount the Hipshot in black satin because I wanted to see how having all black hardware might look. I discovered it had a deeper low end tone that I’d never imagined and so I replaced the Badass II with a chrome Hipshot and am quite happy. Otherwise, I was good with the Badass till then. Not much more scientific than that and I didn’t like the all black hardware (tried with a black control plate too) either.

      Thanks for taking the time to write and all the kind thoughts.

  7. Oh well, there’s nothing wrong by being inspired by Jaco or Eberhard :-)…your nice & clean job turned out gorgeous & very well!…resting I would love to hear how this grown baby sounds :-)…anyway, my congrats!

  8. I had some work done on my fretless and really disappointed. I went to guitar center and fell over to find there were NO fretless anywhere! And this was San Diego! Love that neck you have there! I have a Precision I bought new in 71. I just had the first BaddAss bridge countersunk for more sustain. That worked really well but the E string is not as straight as it needs to be. Nothing affects the playing but pretty disappointed. Never go there again. I use to work there. Bad move. Rock on. Would love to try that one you created!

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