One of my top Jazz influences for almost as long as I’ve been playing guitar is Jazz guitar great, Joe Pass. The first time I heard his playing was on a vinyl album that was given to me as a gift for my 15th birthday by a friend of the family. The album featured a number of Jazz guitar legends since the beginning of Jazz and it served as a great introduction to the premier stylists of the instrument. Joe Pass was the guitarist on one of the featured cuts and I was mesmerized with his playing, especially his use of playing melody with chords.
I soon bought a couple of albums of his that I continually listened to and I was determined to learn his approach to his solo guitar style. His approach was so complete just with a single guitar. He frequently plays a number of popular jazz standards on those albums and I went to work learning one of the songs, “Satin Doll”. To this day, I still play that song, which was instrumental in helping me “crack the code” in learning to play that style.
Along with learning his songs, there was a book I had bought called “Joe Pass Guitar Style” which helped me immensely with understanding many of the musical concepts that Joe and many other Jazz musicians use in their playing and arranging. Some of the important tips of that book I had also learned from my Jazz guitar teachers Charlie LaVerne and Bob Shaw. The book was co-written with another Jazz guitarist Bill Thrasher. When I was living in California in the early 80’s, I lived 30 minutes away from Bill Thrasher who lived in Santa Barbara. I was hoping to take lessons from him but learned from the owner of a local music store that he had passed away.
Other Learning Resources on Learning Joe Pass’s Style
There are a number of great books on Joe Pass that will help any Jazz student expand their playing vocabulary.
- Play Like Joe Pass: The Ultimate Guitar Lesson Book with Online Audio (includes TAB)
- Joe Pass — Virtuoso Standards Songbook Collection (includes TAB)
- Complete Joe Pass Solo transcriptions by Roland Leone (no TAB, musical notation only)
About Joe Pass
American jazz guitarist Joe Pass, his full name is Joseph Anthony Jacobi Passalaqua, was born January 13,1929 and passed away in May 23,1994) was known for his solo work as well as having worked with pianist Oscar Peterson and vocalist Ella Fitzgerald.
Joe Pass recorded a series of albums during the 1960s for Pacific Jazz Records, including “Catch Me”, “12-String Guitar”, “For Django” and “Simplicity”. In 1963, he received Downbeat magazine’s New Star Award. He also played on Pacific Jazz recordings by Gerald Wilson, Bud Shank, and Les McCann. He toured with George Shearing in 1965. During the 1960s, he did mostly TV and recording session work in Los Angeles. Norman Granz, the producer of Jazz at the Philharmonic and the founder of Verve Records, signed Pass to Pablo Records in December 1973. In 1974, Pass released his solo album Virtuoso on Pablo. Also in 1974, Pablo released the album The Trio with Pass, Oscar Peterson, and Niels-Henning Ørsted Pedersen. He performed with them on many occasions throughout the 1970s and 1980s. At the Grammy Awards of 1975, The Trio won the Grammy Award for Best Jazz Performance by a Group. As part of the Pablo roster, Pass recorded with Benny Carter, Milt Jackson, Herb Ellis, Zoot Sims, Duke Ellington, Dizzy Gillespie, Ella Fitzgerald, and Count Basie.
New York magazine wrote about Pass, “Joe Pass looks like somebody’s uncle and plays guitar like nobody’s business. He’s called ‘the world’s greatest’ and often compared to Paganini for his virtuosity. There is a certain purity to his sound that makes him stand out easily from other first-rate jazz guitarists.”
Spectacular Studio Albums by Joe Pass
Portraits of Duke Ellington
Virtuoso No. 2
Virtuoso No. 3
I Remember Charlie Parker
Ira, George and Joe
Virtuoso No. 4
Blues for Fred
One for My Baby
Songs for Ellen
Virtuoso in New York
Some of these are available as full albums on YouTube. I’ve linked to those videos in the titles above.