First introduced in 1960 as the "Deluxe Model", it was marketed as a stablemate to the Jazzmaster guitar which was also marketed as a "Deluxe Model" in its own right; however, it was renamed the Jazz Bass as Fender felt that its redesigned neck - narrower and more rounded than that of the Precision Bass - would appeal more to jazz musicians. The Jazz Bass has two single coil pickups with two pole pieces per string. This gave the bass a stronger midrange sound to compete with the Rickenbacker bass, which had been introduced in 1957 and which was famously "bright." As well as having a slightly different, less symmetrical and more contoured body shape (known in Fender advertising as the "Offset Waist Contour" body), the Jazz Bass neck is noticeably narrower at the nut than that of the Fender Precision Bass. While the Precision Bass was originally styled similarly to the Telecaster guitar (and, after 1957, the Stratocaster), the Jazz Bass' styling was inspired more by the Jazzmaster guitar, with which the Jazz shared its offset body and sculpted edges that differentiate it from other slab-style guitar bodies.
The original intention was to encourage upright-bass players to switch to electric bass guitar. The original Jazz Bass had two stacked knob pots with volume and tone control for each pickup. Original instruments with this stacked configuration are highly valued in today's vintage guitar market. Around 1961 it received three control knobs: two controlling the volume of each pickup and one the overall tone. Despite this new feature, many stack knob models were made until about 1962.
A number of cosmetic changes were made to the instrument when CBS purchased the Fender companies in 1965. During 1965/66 the Jazz Bass received bound rosewood fingerboards with pearloid dot position inlays (which replaced the older "clay"-style of the early '60s) and oval-shaped tuning machines. Block-shaped fingerboard inlays and an optional maple fingerboard were introduced after 1966/67. Fender switched to the 3-bolt neck fixing in the mid-'70s before reverting to the normal 4-bolt neck fixing and dot-shaped fretboard markers in 1983. White pickup covers and a pickguard/control plate were introduced the same year.
Jazz Basses produced between 1989 and 1992 featured a larger body shape, a 'curved' neck plate set into a chamfered pocket for greater sustain and a 22-fret neck, similar to that of a Precision Bass Plus, with a standard vintage-style top-load bridge, two separate volumes and a master TBX tone circuit. Usually known as Boner models, they have been discontinued in 1993 and can't be confused with the Fender Jazz Bass Plus, which has the same 22-fret neck design, but utilizes a different body styling, Lace Sensor pickups, Schaller fine-tuner bridge and Phil Kubicki-designed active electronics.
A fourth push button control is available on American-made Jazz Basses produced between mid-2003 until 2008. Known as the "S-1 Switch", this feature allows the pickups to operate in standard, parallel wiring, or alternatively in series wiring when the switch is depressed. While in series, both pickups function as a single unit with one volume control, giving the Jazz Bass a sound more similar to the Precision Bass. The two pickups are built to be opposite from each other in both magnetic polarity and electrical phase, so that when heard together, hum is cancelled -- the humbucking effect. The Highway One Jazz Bass is a moderately priced American-made bass introduced in 2003, featuring a Leo Quan BadAss II bridge with grooved saddles, Posiflex graphite neck support rods, '70s styling and a Greasebucket tone circuit since 2006.
In 2008, the American Series models were replaced by a new American Standard line which greatly differs from the first-generation American Standard Series basses introduced in 1994. The 2008 American Series now has a rolled edge neck with highly detailed nut and fret work, as well as the familiar rounded body shape with the vintage body radius. The S-1 switching system has been discontinued in favor of new features such as a new high-mass vintage bridge, Hipshot lightweight vintage-style tuning machines, a richer and deeper neck tint, glossed maple or rosewood fingerboard and satin back for smooth playability. The new American Standard Jazz Basses had a thinner finish undercoat that lets the body breathe and improves resonance.
Although the original Jazz Bass is made by Fender, 'boutique' bass manufacturers such as Sadowsky produce bass guitars that incorporate many of the same features and some of the design sensibilities of the Fender Jazz Bass.