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Joe Pass

A master of guitar technique, Joe Pass ranks among the great finger pickers and is a brillant soloist. His phrasing, speed, note selection, harmonic and interpretative skills, flair, swing and feel for the blues is awesome. He's in the select circle of players who've recorded so much they have a signature sound, yet seldom become locked into rote, cliched or gimmicked playing styles. He worked with Tony Pastor during his high school days, then served a year in the Marines. Pass, like far too many other greats of his generation, had his career interrupted by drug problems. But he was able to deal with his in a quicker, more decisive fashion than many. He was imprisoned and hospitalized before entering Synanon in 1961. Pass and other musicians confined there issued an album in 1962, Sounds Of Synanon, that helped Pass professionally and medically. He licked his habit, won Downbeat's new star award in 1963, and became a busy studio player in the '60s. He made several albums for Pacific Jazz and World Pacific in the '60s, quartet and larger group sessions. He played with Les McCan, Gerald Wilson and Julie London, and toured with George Shearing in the mid-'60s and Benny Goodman in 1973. He was signed by Norman Granz to the Pablo label. His first solo album Virtuso was an affirmation of Pass's majestic abilities. He recorded prolifically for Pablo in the '70s, accompanying Ella Fitzgerald, Count Basie, Duke Ellington and Sarah Vaughan, playing with Oscar Peterson's trio, and touring with Dizzy Gillespie. Pass did several solo albums and played in various ensembles in the '80s. He's made a number of sessions for Concord, and continued recording for the revived Pablo label. His current and many of his '70s Pablo dates are widely available. Unfortunately, there's not much other material in print.
© Ron Wynn and David Nelson McCarthy /TiVo

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