K775V Kay Jazz II and K5970V Jazz Special
Price: $1,495 (K775V Jazz II electric guitar); $1,150 (K5970V Jazz Special electric bass)
First heralded for their acoustics and upright basses, Kay made its mark with electric guitars played by Eric Clapton and Paul McCartney. Kay Vintage Reissue recalls that era with its K775V Jazz II and K5970V bass.
The K775V has an all-maple body with multi-ply flame top, back, and sides, has multi-ply black and white celluloid binding for just the right hint of class. Finished with a high-gloss poly, it has a set maple neck with single-ply binding. Its 26″-scale is adorned with 20 medium nickel-silver frets, and the rosewood fingerboard has a 12″ radius with six sharkfin inlays. Topping the neck is a headstock with the classic gold chevron and “Kelvinator” logo. Three-to-a-side Grover Rotomatics and the truss-rod cover bearing Roger Fritz’s signature indicate this is not the average catalog guitar.
The Bigsby tailpiece has a fixed roller bridge, and dual Volume and Tone knobs team with a three-way toggle to control a pair of “Kleenex box” Gold K single-coils with adjustable pole pieces, all accented by a Lucite pickguard with the Kay logo.
The K775V played remarkably well and its resonance was spectacular. Plugged in, its pickups are reminiscent of TV ’Trons with a splash of P-90. The neck pickup was round with plenty of presence and articulation. Jazzers, in particular, will benefit from the neck and middle positions. The guitar’s rocking side rears its head when flipped to the bridge pickup, and there’s a remarkable amount of cool country twang and grit, though it varies from the standard Tele tonal concept.
The K5970V bass includes many of the same construction elements, including primarily-maple construction and similar binding. The differences include a chambered body that provides thunderous low-end that blossoms when plucked, Wilkinson extra-light tuners, and a stud-mounted rosewood bridge and chrome tailpiece with thumb wheels for tweakability. The most notable difference, though, is in the electronics. The K5970V uses a single Kay Reissue Thin Twin blade pickup with individual Volume and Tone controls. It’s a surprisingly versatile pickup and a tried-and-true setup.
Like the guitar, the bass played like butter right out of the case. The thin, comfortable neck has a hint of J-Bass feel, and the 31″ scale (which will make guitarists happy) feels more like a 34″ thanks to the way the body sits whether seated or standing. Much like the K775V, the K5970V impressed before it was even plugged in. The chambered body booms, and with the factory-installed flatwounds, the tone is thick and thunderous. Plugged in, the results were just as pleasing – imagine the lovechild of a Höfner and a P Bass. For most producers and artists, that’s a sonic win.
Roger Fritz and the folks at Kay should be very happy with themselves. With first-rate construction and cool styling – and the tone to back them up – the K775V Jazz II electric guitar and the K5970V Jazz Special electric bass are worthy of any stage or studio.
This article originally appeared in VG July 2013 issue. All copyrights are by the author and Vintage Guitar magazine. Unauthorized replication or use is strictly prohibited.