“A genius within his own rights”
That was the first description i ever heard of Joe Pass. It was said by none other than Oscar Peterson (an extremely talented jazz piano player and composer).
Joe Pass is a well know jazz guitar player and one of my pesonal favorites.
In this E-book we will explore his history, his music, and his legacy. On a more pesonal side i will also tell my story of getting to know his music.
So how does a 16 years old me, with no knowledge of jazz and a family of classical musicians, starts spending hours on listening to the likes of Joe Pass and makes their style his goal as a guitar player?
Well the answer is very simple – the internet.
As i started putting more and more hours in to my guitar playing i began listening to more music in general.
The intenet, and Youtube specificly, has almost everything you can dream about when talking about listening to music.
Sites such as Youtube have algorithms that can offer you videos that you might like based on your past searches/views so you can easily get to know songs and musicians that otherwise you would have never have heared about.
From Rock ,to Blues ,to classical music ,to gypsy jazz ,to the likes of Charlie Parker i stumbled across this video:
And i was hooked….
Early life and career
Joe was born on the 13th of January 1929 in New Brunswick, New Jersey.
His parents were none musicians, yet his father was a very important supporter of his guitar playing.
His father pushed him very hard to practice many hours a day and would encourage him to learn tunes by ear and improvise around the melody.
He would randomly ask Joe to play something and would say “fill it up” .
So lets hear it from the man him self:
# on 15:00 (“Interview with Joe”) he talks about his start and his fathers role to his begining.
Talented form a young age, Joe found work as a preformer at the age of 14.
He started in a group with a violin and rythem guitar. he took the role of the soloist and the improviser. By the age of 20 joe was already a top rated guitarist in his local music scene.
Later he began traveling with small jazz groups and moved from Pennsylvania to New York City.
After a year in NYC Joe developed a serious drug problem that would trouble him for the years to come.
He spend most of the 50’s in and out of jail for drug related convictions.
Joe cleaned up from drugs and in 1960 at a rehab center.
One of the owners of the center was the owner of “World Pacific Records”.
In 1961 Joe and some other musicians who recovered in the same rehab center recorded together an album.
That was the first recording we have of joe pass playing:
Here is another song he played in the same show:
The 60’s – His Discovery
So how does one goes from “No guitar. No money. No future. No hope and a broken life” to leading the guitar scene of LA in 10 years?
Well to do that you have to be good… extreamly good, and of corse with a touch of luck.
With “Pacific Jazz Records” Joe recroded 4 albums :
“Catch Me” from “Catch Me!”:
“Sunday In New York” “12 String Guitar”:
“Django” from “For Django”:
“You and Me” from “Simplicity”:
In the 60’s Joe mostly did TV and recording session work in Los Angeles.
Joe also played in a lot of other recordings of well known musicians such as:
In 1965 he even toured with George Shearing.
Sadly i couldn’t find a recording of them togther so here is just Geroge Shearing because why not…
“It was kind of an accident”
By this time Joe had played a lot with a lot of different people but how did he start soloing?
Let’s hear it from him:
The 70’s and beyond – Going Big…
At this point Joe was well known in LA but he wasn’t known on the east coast or internationally.
In December of 1973 Norman Granz the producer of “Jazz at the Philharmonic” and the founder of “Verve Records”, signed Pass to “Pablo Records”.
And then came the bang.
In 1974 Joe released his solo album “Virtuoso” which is considered by most to be his best album.
It is also considered to be one of the best jazz guitar albums of all time.
“Stella By Starlight” from “Virtuoso”:
“It is called Virtuoso and rightly so”
New York magazine
The only original song in the album –
“Blues For Alican” from “Virtuoso”:
Norman Granz also paired Joe with Oscar Peterson and Niels-Henning Ørsted Pedersen and together the recorded the album “The trio”.
The album won the Grammy Award for Best Jazz Performance by a Group in 1975.
“Chicago Blues” from “The Trio”:
As part of the Pablo roster, Joe recorded a lot with Oscar Peterson and many others:
Joe also recorded a lot of solo albums such as :
“The Stones of Jazz”, “I Remember Charlie Parker”, “Virtuoso No.2”, “Virtuoso No.3” and much more….
Toward the end of Ella Fitzgerald‘s career the two paired and recorded 6 albums together:
“Take Love Easy” (1973)
“Fitzgerald and Pass… Again” (1976)
“Hamburg Duets – 1976” (1976)
“Sophisticated Lady” (1975, 1983)
“Speak Love” (1983)
“Easy Living” (1986)
Joe Pass & Ella Fitzgerald – Duets in Hannover 1975:
#with time stemps in the description
Ella Fitzgerald & Joe Pass – Again (Full Album) – 1976:
#with time stemps in the description
His Death and Legacy
His last preformance was in 7.5.1994 with Pisano at a nightclub in Los Angeles.
In 1994 Joe died from liver cancer in LA, California at the age of 65 leaving behind him a legacy of a genius guitarist who inspired many.
Joe is a perfect example that you can rebuild your life from any point and even become someone who will be remembered for generations to come.
For the finishing touch here is one of Joe’s recordings: