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The Return of the Fender Jazzmaster Guitar

In its 60th anniversary year, Fender's quirky icon finally fulfills its original purpose

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Nels Cline playing a Fender Jazzmaster (photo by Scott Friedlander)
Nels Cline at John Abercrombie tribute concert (photo by Scott Friedlander)

Last March, at the Brooklyn venue Roulette, the guitarist Nels Cline began his segment of a live tribute to John Abercrombie alone. He interpreted the late jazz hero’s “Memoir” in swells of trademark legato phrasing, with a gorgeous, crystalline tone—distinctly Fender-like but with a deeper, darker midrange. The oversold house went pin-drop silent.

The late great American inventor Leo Fender surely would’ve been tickled by Cline’s performance. Here was one of the most acclaimed guitarists of his generation, playing a ’59 Jazzmaster on a program featuring some of the finest modern-jazz talent on the planet. Cline was even using the instrument’s legendarily unpopular “Rhythm” circuit to dial in a smokier, more conventional jazz tone. Finally, in the year of its 60th anniversary, the Jazzmaster was being deployed as its creator intended.

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