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Fit For Repurpose

Putting together this month’s feature on Fender offsets and their various offshoots, vintage and modern, you can’t help but think how many guitars were designed for one thing but ended up being famous for another. The Les Paul was, after all, designed as a suave jazz guitar – but gained fame and popularity only after it made Marshalls howl. Likewise, has there ever been a more gloriously misnamed electric than the Jazzmaster? Off the top of my head, I can think of more jazz players who used a Telecaster (such as Ed Bickert or, in more recent times,

Julian Lage) than a Jazzmaster, and though I did find some interesting footage on YouTube of Joe Pass playing a Jaguar (oh, the irony!), it seems that the jazz hardcore weren’t impressed with Leo’s genre-specific toy. Jazzmasters and scuzzy distortion, though? Everyone from Thurston Moore to Kevin Shields and J Mascis comes to mind. No good deed goes unpunished, as they say, and Leo Fender’s attempt to offer jazz players a refined tool for creating urbane melodies eventually got used to tear down the masonry of popular music like an SDS drill during the grunge era. But that probably says something healthy about music – it is a slippery thing that defies attempts to confine it.

But even as we recognise how offsets became a key part of the New Wave scene and then grunge and finally post-rock, it’s healthy to remember that Leo’s designs still have room to keep transforming. Anyone who doubts that you can play soaring solos on an offset should hear Chris Buck of Cardinal Black play one – and that potential hasn’t been ignored by the world’s other guitar makers. From Tom Anderson to PJD, everyone makes an offset these days, and you’ll as likely find them loaded with a hot humbucker as you will a vintage-output single-coil pickup.

Yet, in a final irony, all the switching options on the original Jazzmaster and Jaguar that Fender clearly believed heralded the future, back in the 50s and 60s, have typically been simplified in modern reimaginings of the offset such as Johnny Marr’s signature Jaguar or Gordon Smith’s Gatsby solidbody. It seems, in the final analysis, that what guitarists need to express themselves is not a phalanx of fiddly features but a comfortable, versatile vehicle for inspiration that connects with their soul – and offsets certainly offer that, today as never before. Enjoy the issue and see you next time.

Editor’s Highlights

Scott Henderson The godfather of virtuosic multi-genre fusion shares his thoughts on what matters in electric improvisation, plus his new album on p38


Jamie Dickson Editor-in-chief

Idle Moments Intense, dark, multi-layered, the music created by Idles presents a different vision of how guitar can be viscerally exciting on p60

Tommy & Molly Has there ever been an acoustic duo more dynamic? During a recent UK tour, they joined us to chat bluegrass, country and more on p54



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