by Mike Brooks, September, 2016
Where do all the Jazz Basses go? Most companies produce a variation on the well-worn theme and we, as customers, still buy them in droves.
Love them or hate them, they are the most popular bass design without question. This offering from Lakland, as part of its Skyline range, has pinned its colours well and truly to the mast and they don’t come more vintage-looking than this: simple, defined and classic to the extreme.
This five-string variant is built to last – but does it imitate the classic design in every way?
Anyone looking for a modern, but passive, Jazz, with or without the ‘F’ word on the headstock, should certainly give this bass some attention.
The gloss-lacquered three-piece ash body has that caramel blonde hue, familiar to vintage natural finished instruments, with curves in all the right places.
This isn’t a light bass, weighing in at 4.6 kilos, and there is some obvious neck dive, but this is quickly rectified once on a strap. This bass resonates very strongly indeed against the player’s body when worn, and for sheer comfort, there is certainly nothing to complain about – the offset body styling works so well.
Lovers of all things passive will fall head over heels for this bass.
In terms of playability, the profile of the flat-sawn rock maple neck is very pleasing without being too thick or thin but a happy medium between the two, closer to a shallow D-shape than anything else.
The 22-fret maple fingerboard may be broad, but it has a reasonably flat profile and a comfortable 19mm string spacing at the bridge. The five- bolt neck pocket is solid, the neck very firmly seated and attached with additional graphite reinforcement bars in the neck for added rigidity.
The hardware maintains the vintage vibe perfectly with a mixture of chrome and black fittings, a Lakland stamped bridge unit that allows through-bridge and through-body stringing, black position markers on the front facing and side of the neck, a chrome string tree covering all five strings, chrome Hipshot Ultralite machineheads with matt silver string posts, the familiar chrome control plate and vintage-style black controls for volume, volume and passive tone.
This is finished off with a three-ply aged white (mint) scratchplate. The overall set-up is comfortable and the whole instrument feels solid, well-constructed and very much up to the job.
Sounds and Playability
The signs of a good passive Jazz are a naturally woody tone, good sustain and a vibrant resonance: we are pleased to say, this bass has all three.
The 44-60 has a solid fundamental tone that vibrates the length of the instrument – you can actually feel it when holding the neck. The natural tone is impressively rounded across all five strings with plenty of spring and ‘bounce’, as one would usually expect from a bolt-on instrument.
So plugging in, what do we have? A top-notch variation of a Jazz, we’d say. These single-coil pickups are throaty and raspy but with a real warmth to them: working with each pickup individually shows how much difference their respective positioning makes to the output. As one would expect, the neck pickup has a warmer delivery with ‘plummier’ tones and a rounded character, whereas the bridge pickup is capable of a far honkier, tighter tone.
Of course, we should expect this, but the pickups, and the bass generally, do a great job in their approximations.
Fingerstyle, slap, pick playing and thumbstrokes all have their own dynamics and this bass delivers them very well with essentially equal string volume across all five strings: no mean feat on a passive bass.
Obviously, the low B is louder than the G string due to its mass and size but the G string is no shrinking violet. All of the classic Jazz tones are here – there would be a problem if they weren’t! – but the physical solidity of the bass coupled with its dynamic performance are all extra attributes. The low B doesn’t have the bold mid-bias it might have were this an active bass, but within the passive tonal context, it doesn’t let anyone down.
Lovers of all things passive will fall head over heels for this bass, and active fans might just be converted to give this a spin, as it really is a very good instrument for the money.
It puts in a very impressive performance, while maintaining a traditional vibe, coupled with vintage looks and excellent playability. Lakland five-string basses have always performed well, and despite this being from the cheaper Skyline range, there is no lack of quality or a perceivable drop in performance.
Considering the cost of a US-made Jazz Bass, this might actually be considered a bit of a bargain: compare them and make your own mind up.
A quality instrument with all the classic hallmarks you would expect from a great Jazz bass. Buy with confidence.
Good value for money, well-constructed and finished, classic tones and playability.
A bit heavy but it feels solid.