Joe Pass Day

January 13, 1929 – May 23, 1994

A tribute to the virtuosic jazz guitarist

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Guitarist Joseph Passalacqua (Joe Pass) was born on January 13, 1929 in New Brunswick, NJ.

He started playing guitar when he was nine, worked with Tony Pastor’s orchestra while still in high school, and was with the Charlie Barnet big band in 1947 before serving in the military.

But after that fast start, the 1950s were a lost decade as Pass struggled with drug addiction and served some time in prison.

In 1962 when he was 33, Pass was permanently clean, making his recording debut on the Sounds of Synanon Lp.

He was a fixture on the West Coast during the decade, recording for Pacific Jazz and World Pacific including with the Gerald Wilson Orchestra, Les McCann, Bud Shank, Clare Fischer, Bill Perkins, Groove Holmes, and his own sessions which are highlighted by two classics: Catch Me and For Django.

Pass also worked with Louie Bellson, Sarah Vaughan, Joe Williams, the George Shearing Quintet (1965-67) and Benny Goodman.

Joe Pass impressed producer Norman Granz so much with his unaccompanied solos that he was extensively recorded for the Pablo label during 1973-92 including the classic Virtuoso album along with many other unaccompanied solo recordings; he had the ability to sound like a full orchestra even on uptempo bebop pieces such as “Cherokee” and “How High The Moon.”

The guitarist also recorded with all-star groups that included Duke Ellington, Oscar Peterson, Benny Carter, J.J. Johnson, Ella Fitzgerald (they recorded six vocal-guitar duet albums), Sarah Vaughan, Milt Jackson, Dizzy Gillespie and Count Basie, staying very busy up until the time of his death when he was 65.

Here is Joe Pass performing a solo version of “Satin Doll.”

-Scott Yanow


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