Review: Lakland Jerry Scheff Signature Series Bass
Bass Player Magazine, November, 2001 - "Soundroom"
by Terry Buddingh
Vintage-Style 4-String with Kent Armstrong Split Tube Pickups
Jerry Scheff has been a first-call session player since he broke into the L.A. recording scene in 1964, playing a Fender Jazz bass on the Association's "Along Comes Mary" and "Cherish." Though he has backed everyone from Neil Diamond to Elvis Costello, Scheff is probably best known for playing a Fender P-Bass with Elvis Presley's "TCB" band until The King's death in 1977. More recently, Jerry has become a favorite of producers Mitchell Froom and T-Bone Burnett. He has developed a unique sound using a short-scale Jerry Jones Danelectro-style bass and an outboard Sadowsky preamp. The Lakland Jerry Scheff Signature bass combines the familiar feel of Jerry's 34"-scale Fenders with the distinctive sound of Danelectro-style "lipstick tube" pickups: strong lows, slightly hollow mids, and lacy, detailed upper mids. Active tone controls complete the package. Scheff's hybrid design is Lakland's third Signature series bass, preceded by the Joe Osborn '60 J-Bass repro and the Bob Glaub '64 P-Bass clone.
"The broad range of unique tones makes the Scheff particularly useful in special situations that call for distinctive sounds."
The JSS comes with a vintage-approved alder body for powerful midrange punch and a comfortable oval neck with a light oil finish and rosewood fingerboard-which further enhances midrange richness. To simulate the Danelectro sound, the Kent Armstrong split-tube pickups are mounted farther apart than the pickups on a '60 Fender Jazz Bass with the rear pickup 3/4" closer to the bridge, and the front pickup 7/8" closer to the neck. The increased distance provides the Jerry Scheff with a broad range of tones. Because there's less string motion near the bridge than near the neck, the bridge pickup needs to be wound with nearly twice as much wire as the neck pickup in order for the pickups to have similar outputs. (I measured DC resistances of 10k and 5.9k respectively. Vintage Danelectro lipstick-tube pickups typically measure from 3k to 5k.) The extra winds in the bridge pickup not only increase the output, but also give it a thick, punchy tone. The bridge pickup is reverse-wound with reverse magnet polarity to produce a humbucking effect when the two pickups are blended. The pickups can be a bit noisy when soloed. To simulate Jerry's outboard Sadowsky preamp, Lakland provides a proprietary Bartolini NTMB-L preamp with active bass and treble controls, as well as a selectable midrange for even more flexibility. (The Sadowsky has only bass and treble controls.)
Lakland has a well-earned reputation for fine finishes and careful attention to detail-the level of workmanship you expect from a $3,000 instrument. Our JSS was no exception: Each fret end was carefully contoured with Lakland's smooth "mercury drop" shape, and the nut slots were cut perfectly. I was also impressed by the neck pocket's tight fit-no gaps were visible. The bass played effortlessly and buzz-free thanks to its moderately low action and slight neck relief-it was obviously carefully set up at the factory, and the neck remained stable through several weeks of testing.
My first test gig was with a Brazilian/Cuban jazz trio. I plugged the Scheff into a Euphonic Audio iAMP 350 head driving a Wayne Jones 2x10 cab. Soloing the neck pickup produced a round, surprisingly deep tone that also evoked acoustic-like hollow upper-mid resonance. I had always assumed that the resonant Danelectro sound came from the instrument's semi-hollow masonite bodies, but the unusual voice of the solid-body Lakland's neck pickup definitely evoked Dano vibe. While not as thick and powerful sounding as a P-Bass, the Scheff could get fat, salsa-approved tone with some extra bottom boost from the iAMP. The neck pickup sounded sweet, relaxed, and open, while the bridge pickup sounded punchier and more assertive.
I was able to explore the Scheff's more aggressive character on an R and B gig using a Hartke HA4000 to drive a Bergantino 2x10. With the bridge pickup soloed and the onboard preamp providing some 500Hz mid boost, I attained a wickedly strong and punchy tone. The Bartolini electronics enhance the Kent Armstrong Split-Tube pickups' range considerably. Blending the two pickups produces the most distinctly Danelectro-flavored textures. Because the pickups are so far apart and wound differently, they combine to produce interesting comb-filtered tones, with some frequencies cancelled more than others. Switching the Bartolini preamp's mid center to 700Hz and using some deep cut further emphasizes the "phased" sound. Backing down the volume of either pickup produces more unique, complex, and layered sounds. Played with a pick, the Scheff can emulate the grindy twang of a baritone guitar. The broad range of unique tones makes the Scheff particularly useful in special situations that call for distinctive sounds.
The first Lakland basses combined the best attributes of Fender and Music Man basses, and the Jerry Scheff continues that hybrid theme. The versatile, powerful electronics make the Scheff ideal for cooking up unique sonic flavors. The Danelectro-style pickups contribute greatly to the uniqueness of its voice, which could add some contrasting seasoning to special recordings. If you can justify $3,000 for a change of pace, the JSS can provide an interesting alternative to more conventional-sounding basses.
For more information about the Lakland Jerry Scheff Signature Bass, click here.