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Fender Thurston Moore and Lee Ranaldo Signature Jazzmasters

The Jazzmaster, a visually striking and tonally versatile instrument manufactured by Fender, has enjoyed one of the electric-guitar industry’s strangest and most ironic existences. Introduced in 1958 as Fender’s most expensive piece, its original purpose was to steal the jazz-guitar market away from Gibson, whose hollowbody models were bop staples. With its gentler, single-coil soapbar pickups; an “offset-waist,” contoured alder body that better accommodated a seated playing position; a new vibrato system; and precise circuitry that allowed for two tonal presets, it could provide cool, rich tones while harboring the attributes of Fender’s massively successful Stratocaster: a full, 25 1/2-inch scale length, comfort, durability, modern aesthetics and that novel tremolo arm.

All of that surely looked fabulous on paper, but go ahead and try to find documentation of a traditional jazz master playing a Jazzmaster. Guitar buffs frequently point to Joe Pass, who very sparsely used both the Jazzmaster and its shorter-scale sister instrument, the Jaguar, which debuted in 1962. As the story goes, Pass played a J-master only because it was the lone guitar available to him during his stint at Synanon Rehab Center. (The guitar actually belonged to the facility, and can be heard on Pass’ curious 1962 LP Sounds of Synanon [Pacific], recorded with other musician-patients.)

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