The Best of Joe Pass: Pacific Jazz Years – Joe Pass

JAZZBO NOTES ESSENTIAL RECORDING

Rating: ★★★★½

I used to think that guitarist Joe Pass was kind of square. I don’t know what I was thinking.

Sure he’s a straight up bebop player, but when you’ve got the chops, endless creativity and taste of a Joe Pass, who cares? He can play with a big band and get himself heard above the band with a clarity of tone and ideas which are unequaled. When playing solo, he can manage to accompany his melodic lines with chords and basslines which is unfailingly musical, while being rather astonishing technically. Pass adapts to whatever circumstances he finds himself in, never getting in the way, and always distinguishing himself.

On this compilation from various recordings made for the Pacific Jazz label during the sixties, Pass plays in a variety of contexts: with Gerald Wilson’s big band, with Les McCann and Richard Groove Holmes, and with a quartet that had a second guitarist, John Pisano, playing rhythm. Conspicuously absent are Pass’ solo performances, so we don’t get to hear him accompany himself with chords and bass lines.

As a result of the circumstances under which these performances were recorded, you’ll hear much more single line improvisations from Pass than those familiar with his Pablo recordings would expect, but Pass’ playing is first rate on these sides.

The one dud in the set is a cover of More from a movie theme set, not because Pass’ playing is poor, but because the adaptation is so utterly tasteless.

For casual fans of Pass’ work on the Pacific Jazz label, you could hardly do better than this collection. Die hard fans will probably want to pick up the five disk Mosaic label box set of Joe Pass on Pacific.

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2 thoughts on “The Best of Joe Pass: Pacific Jazz Years – Joe Pass

  1. Larry

    An implication in your first few sentences seems to be that being a “straight up bebop player” would make a musician a “square”. That would mean that Charlie Parker was a “square”. This is sort of a total reversal of what the generally accepted definition of a square had been in the first place. Anyone capable of playing bebop is, by definition, “hip”…particularly Joe Pass.

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  2. Michael Kydonieus Post author

    Nah, that’s not what I meant. However, in the wake of Charlie Parker (who definitely wasn’t square), there were a whole lot of wannabes who were bland imitators. Charlie Mingus even wrote a song about these folks — Gunslinging Bird. The full title for that piece is “If Charlie Parker Were A Gunslinger There’d Be A Whole Lot Of Dead Copycats.” When I was referring to “straight up bebop,” that’s what I was talking about. And yes, it is possible to play bebop and be utterly square.

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