A brown Fender Jazz? Yes – but forget about the Mocha Brown of the 70s that so often flagged up a bass weighing the same as a small planet, for this is different. The body of this one is made up of three pieces of okoume, a central African hardwood, and it looks mighty fine… almost identical, in fact, to the natural mahogany finish on Fender’s Japanese and Mexican ’69 Thinline Tele reissues.
It’s not a flashy bass, and if you’re the kind of player who likes to fade into any situation, both musically and visually, it could be just the ticket.
Nor is it hefty. Though it has a full-sized Jazz Bass body, this one clocks in at a manageable 4.25kg/9.3lbs – we’ve heard some are lighter – and it actually feels a bit lighter than that, as it’s very nicely balanced. Vintage fans will approvingly note the neck’s slab rosewood fingerboard, the familiar 1.5-inch Jazz-width nut, the clover-leaf open-gear tuners, the white faux-clay dots and the spaghetti logo.
The old-school appointments stop there, though, as the truss rod is accessed from the headstock, the fingerboard has a modern 9.5-inch radius and the frets are medium jumbos. Finished in clear gloss, the neck is sweet to navigate, and the 45-100 roundwounds suit it well.
Abandoning both scratchplate and control plate, the Okoume has rear-mounted pickups and controls, and the output jack moves to the edge. The bridge is a chrome Fender Hi-Mass unit with the saddles sliding securely in channels; with no rear recessing, the strings’ ball ends do stick out a bit.
The string spacing at the bridge is 2mm less than on the bent-tin bridge of a ’62 RI we have lying around – and while on that subject, though the G string is centred over its polepieces, the E is not, and there’s also too much room between the E and the edge of the fingerboard. It simply requires the neck-shift manoeuvre familiar to all vintage Fender owners, but if this is a tweak that you don’t feel comfortable carrying out yourself, we’d recommend enlisting the services of a professional.
The Okoume Jazz has two Dual-Coil Ceramic Noiseless pickups linked to a master volume and a pickup pan pot, these two lying closest to the treble pickup; bass, treble and mid cut/boost are arranged over the two lower pots, one being a stacked unit. All the controls, apart from the volume, of course, have convenient centre detents.
There’s no active/passive switch – the preamp is on all the time. We like Fender’s Noiseless bass pickups and they work well here, with all the usual shades of Jazz Bass tone from bridge to neck via the pan pot, plus well-judged EQ knobs to tweak zing, punch and boom. No complaints – and no noise.
While our sample’s setup isn’t perfect, the concept is pretty neat. If we said it was a bit like a 60s Jazz that somebody stripped in ’73, then threw on a Badass bridge and active pickups in ’85, and got it refinished in clear gloss last year, you might think we were slagging it off. Nothing could be further from the truth: it’s a compliment. With the kind of modern upgrades a player might have fitted to a hard-working old Jazz out of necessity, it’s a gig-worthy all-rounder with good potential
• Description: Solidbody active four-string bass. Manufactured in Mexico
• Price:£749 with deluxe gigbag
• Build:Three-piece okoume body, maple neck with 9.5” radius 20-fret rosewood fingerboard, gloss finish all over, synthetic bone nut, Hi-Mass bridge, standard open-gear machineheads
• Electrics: Two Dual-Coil Ceramic Noiseless Jazz Bass pickups with nickel-plated polepieces
• Controls: Master volume, pan control, three-band active EQ with treble boost/cut, bass boost/cut and mid boost/cut
• Left-handers: No
• Finish: Natural only
• Scale length: 863mm/34”
• Neck width: Nut 38mm, 12th fret 57mm
• Depth of neck: First fret 21mm, 12th fret 23mm
• String spacing: Nut 29.5mm, Bridge 57mm
• Contact:Fender GB&I 01342 331700 www.fender.com