Not many G&L basses makes their way through the studio, but there is no good reason for this. They are generally well made, and maybe their under-representation on Rex and the Bass is just because there just are not as many out there as the ubiquitous Fenders.
On the off chance that you are not familiar with G&L, this company was founded by Leo Fender, George Fullerton, and Dale Hyatt in the 1970, and Leo worked there up until his death in 1991. Mr. Fender said this company’s products included the best designs he ever made, which is something coming from the guy who invented the Stratocaster and the Precision Bass.
G&L has made their name with quality US-made instruments, but these did not have entry level pricing, so a few years back they introduced their Tribute series of imported guitars and basses to reach a broader market. The Tribute JB-2 4-string bass we are looking at today was made in Indonesia, and it can certainly give its domestically produced counterpart a run for its money.
As you can probably guess from the model name, the JB-2 has a general Jazz Bass vibe. This includes the two single-coil pickups, the Fender-esque headstock with open-back chrome cloverleaf tuners, and a 1.5-inch nut width. Things get a less Fender like from this point. Most obviously, the contoured swamp ash body has sort of a P-bass shape, and lacks the offset waist that you would find on a Jazz Bass.
The body is available in either glossy clear or 3-tone sunburst, and there is no pickguard (though either would look nice with a bit of tortoise on it). The 34-inch scale neck is attached to the body with 6-bolts (and no neck plate), and comes with either a maple (3TS) or rosewood (natural) fretboard. There is a 12-inch radius to the fretboard, and there are 21-medium jumbo frets sunk into it.
The body is loaded up with a G&L high-mass saddle lock bridge (designed by Leo Fender) and a pair of Anico V pickups that were also designed by Leo and then tuned by Paul Gagnon, the Vice President of G&L Engineering. There is some discussion of whether these are US made pickups, but I have heard they are made at the Cort factory in Indonesia (where the rest of the bass is made). These pickups are wired through two volume pots and a master tone knob.
Assembly quality of this JB-2 is very good, and the folks overseas should certainly be earning more the terrible wages they get (about 50 cents per hour). The glossy clear finish on the nicely grained body is very good, and the neck and fretwork are better than a lot of new guitars I see coming from Gibson’s USA factories. The set up was very good right out of the box, with only a slight tweak of the truss rod to bring the action up a bit.
The overall playability and sound have a 1960s Fender vibe. The pickups are just as good (to my ears) as the US G&Ls, and the neck has a vintage Jazz Bass feel with a comfy C shape that is not too thin. This is a great bass for jazz and rock, and it is perfect for playing the blues. It has vintage tone galore, and I love the sound of Alnico pickups. It balances well on a strap and even though it is made of ash it is not too heavy, with this example weighing about 9 ½ pounds.
The dirt cheap labor allows the G&L Tribute JB2 bass to come in at a very reasonable price point, with most online sellers asking $449.99 for them (no case included), and nice used ones selling all day long on eBay for under 300 bucks. You cannot build a bass this nice for less money, so if you are in the market you might want to check one out!