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July/August 2000

Steve Masakowski
For Joe
Compass Records

A heartfelt and tasty tribute to an early guitar hero and towering influence, Joe Pass, this straightahead offering by the New Orleans guitarist highlights his rich harmonic palette and remarkably fluid linear concept on seven-string guitar. Far more traditional than his adventurous work with the daring New Orleans ensemble Astral Project, For Joe is part of a continuum that began with Pass' landmark 1964 Pacific Jazz recording For Django.
Backed by bassist Bill Huntington and drummer Johnny Vidacovich (his Astral Project bandmate for the last 22 years), Masakowski marries formidable technique with inherent melodicism on soulful, swinging renditions of Dave Brubeck's "In Your Own Sweet Way," Rodgers & Hart's "Falling in Love With Love" and Pass' buoyant "For Django" along with his own homage to Joe, "Pass Presence." All four pieces are underscored by Vidacovich's lithe, in-the-moment brushwork against Huntington's sparse, deep-toned basslines. They throw a bit of N'awlins second line funk up under "Poinciana" and hit a deliciously lazy, quintessentially Southern stride on Masakowski's aptly-titled "The Big Easy."
For sheer burn it's "Tino's Blues," a showcase for the guitarist's dazzling single note facility and chops-busting intervallic leaps. On the serene side is an unhurried rendition of Horace Silver's melancholy ballad "Peace," featuring a brilliant, Pass-like solo guitar intro in which Masakowski makes full use of the low B on his seven-string. He dips deeply into a blues bag-another highly regarded aspect of Pass' playing-on his other Joe homage, "I'll Pass." The collection ends on a poignant note with Masakowski's unaccompanied seven-string acoustic rendition of Pass' lovely ballad "I'll Know." A superb showing by one of the real monsters of modern jazz guitar.

Originally published in July/August 2000
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