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FDP Forum / Fender Guitars: Jaguars & Jazzmasters / Will Ray Jazzacaster review



Pueblo chico, infierno grande
Mar 30th, 2004 12:54 AM   Edit   Profile  

Awhile back I made some inquiries about the Fender Will Ray Jazzacaster on this forum, then bought one offered on eBay. I said I'd post a quick review here after I played it out. so here it is.

For those that don't know this model, it's basically a Tele body with a Strat neck and custom Jazzmaster pups, designed according to specs provided by the Hellcasters'; Will Ray, one of the most amazing roots rock/country guitarists around. Mine is serial number 212, one of 250 made in Japan -- excuse me, 'Crafted in Japan' -- in 1997.

The previous owner removed the Hipshot B-bender and shipped it separately. I haven't reinstalled the B-bender so can't comment on that aspect of the guitar. There are no marks where the bender was, amazingly enough, a testament to the removability of the Hipshot B-bender and to the strong body finish.

The pickups are a special set that Seymour Duncan designed that are still available according to the SD website, called 'custom Jazzmaster WR' -- the WR stands for Will Ray of course.

The strat-style pickup selector knob means pickups changes are easier than on a tele, I think (no lip on the knob, so your fingers don't get hung up). Everything is well laid out and it's easy to play. The vol knob is vintage tele style, while the tone is a tele style Vintique knob with concentric bass/treble control, a lot easier to use than I thought it would be. At a gig the other night it was nice being able to roll off some of the bass without affecting the treble -- nice.

The 4-way pickup switch is icing on the cake. Running both pups in series on this guitar sounds a lot better than the same position on one of my Teles with a 4-way. I'm taking the 4-way out of the Tele, but keeping it on the Jazzacaster.

Tele-style brass bridge saddles are great, I haven't broken any strings yet (unlike both my modern strat and tele, with individual saddles, these break strings with regularity).

The neck is a slim 60s style with a soft V profile, very playable, vintage feel. The back of the neck and headstock has a beautiful satin finish, a bit of a surprise to me as all previous Japanese Fenders I'd seen had glossy necks, which I don't like. Very nice amber tint to the neck & headstock as well, giving it an aged appearance.

The rosewood fretboard appears to be of good quality, no defects, etc. I like the big triangle fretmarkers, and in fact it's one of the major assets as I have trouble seeing dot markers in dimly lit clubs. Frets are dressed nicely, no rough spots.

I play a mix of jazz, funk, soul and blues, and for that the Jazzacaster is really well suited. I have two strats (1960 and 2000) and two teles (1957 and 2002) plus one Telesonic (1999) and the Jazzacaster does jazz better than any of them. For jazz I use primarily the neck pickup or both pups in series.

Sonically this guitar is a Jazzmaster. No mistaking the sound; think Smashmouth's 'Walkin' on the Sun' or stuff by Tom Verlaine, J Mascis and all the other famous Jazzmaster slingers.
Playing both pups in serial you do get a tone that resembles a strat or a tele, but that's true on a stock Jazzmaster as well (isn't it? I can't claim a lot of Jazzmaster expertise). Of course all Fenders share some sonic characteristics. But the particular set of harmonic overtones -- and that's what sets one model Fender apart from another -- in this guitar is that belonging to the Jazzmaster. Thus any Tele or Strat elements here are mostly cosmetic. Personally I love the look though.

Some of the tones you can wring out of this guitar are very P90-like, again a classic Jazzmaster characteristic. It really has grit, girth and growl when over-driven. I'm getting some wicked nice feedback tones out of it, way better than any of my strats or teles maybe because the pups are wound hot.

The pickups aren't any noisier than any of the other Fenders installed with single coil pickups. Standard buzz when you remove your hands from the strings, that's it.

I don't know whether the setup I have comes from the previous owner or from the factory, but I haven't had to change a thing, it's perfect. Medium action, no fret buzzing. However the previous owner had apparently raised the high E magnet pole on the neck pickup, as it was way above the other five. When playing hard the first night I gigged out with this guitar, my high E string kept getting caught on the magnet pole. At first I thought it might be catching on a fret end or on the fingerboard itself, but it was the magnet pole. I screwed it back in and it was fine. I can't imagine why the pole was raised like that, as that string has plenty of output & tone even with the pole screwed all the way in. Perhaps it worked its way out, who knows.

I love the look of this guitar, it makes quite a statement. I always wanted to put a small-head Strat neck on a Tele body but had never gotten around to it, so for me the combo is a natural. I like the goldleaf finish, to me it looks visually more interesting than the classic goldtop on Gibsons, Hamers, etc. Every Jazzacaster body looks different because of the different ways in which goldleaf looks once it has been applied. It automatically has a very weathered, aged look to it because of this quirk of goldleaf application. The goldleaf is sealed with a pretty thick layer of poly so it's easy to keep clean and the goldleaf shouldn't change in appearance over the years since real gold, of course, can't fade. Of course the sealer itself will probably yellow with age, but hopefully that will only improve the appearance. Time will tell.


London, UK

obsessively yours
Mar 30th, 2004 01:12 AM   Edit   Profile  

very nice guitar indeed... :)

GAS time....



Pueblo chico, infierno grande
Mar 31st, 2004 03:14 AM   Edit   Profile  

that's it. is that yours? i still haven't met anyone else who has one ...


London, UK

obsessively yours
Mar 31st, 2004 03:30 AM   Edit   Profile  

no...no...it's not mine (I'd wish)

one day I think I'll pick one up though :)



May 30th, 2014 08:42 AM   Edit   Profile  

Very good review. I own a Jazz-A-Caster as well (SN 58). It becames my No.1. I'm looking for a backup, but that's hard. I think I'll have a look at the G&L WR-Signature.

FDP Forum / Fender Guitars: Jaguars & Jazzmasters / Will Ray Jazzacaster review

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