Born in the year of the beginning of the great depression, 1929, Joe Pass’ sound is an exquisite mix of Bebop and Blues. He notably played for many years with Oscar Peterson and they created a wonderful trio album together with the double bass player NHOP, aptly called ‘The Trio‘. Pass’ genius really comes into its own when he has the space to play. Great examples of this are when he is playing either by himself or on any of the four studio albums when he is accompanying the singing powerhouse Ella Fitzgerald.
Pass played the guitar in ways never before seen in jazz, imitating an entire band on his six strings; incorporating walking bass lines, chords, melody lines and improvising solos all at the same time. He has influenced a generation of guitarists like british virtuoso Martin Taylor, and has changed our expectations of the sounds a guitar should make.
Notable works include the aforementioned albums with Ella Fitzgerald:
His solo album Virtuoso (#1 of 4 albums of the same name) which changed the way we hear the guitar when it exploded onto the scene in 1973.
For a delicate and intimate, but lesser known album, of Joe playing with a band, listen to ‘Intercontinental‘. Here he is afforded the sonic space and musical freedom to explore the possibilities of the jazz guitar trio (Guitar, Bass, and Drums).
He played, much like Wes Montgomery, a Gibson ES-175, and helped to turn this guitar into ‘The Jazz Guitar’.
He recorded prolifically and left behind a legacy which has influenced the way we listen to and play jazz guitar. Incorporating much of what came before and developing it into an innovative style the likes of which had never been heard before.
There are many beautiful recordings but listen to this fantastic example of Joe’s bebop style on his duo album with NHOP ‘Chops’ (jazz slang for ‘virtuosic’):