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Joe Pass: The Best of Joe Pass

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This excellent compilation contains highlights from sessions that the great guitarist recorded from 1961-1964 as house guitarist of the label where he made his debut. Producer Dick Bock was instrumental in orchestrating the career of Joe Pass after discovering him at Synanon House, a drug rehabilitation center in Santa Monica. Pass actually made his Pacific Jazz debut as a member of the Synanon Jazz Group on a record that Bock produced in 1961. He was also featured on Pacific Jazz dates led by Les McCann, Clare Fisher, Gerald Wilson, Bud Shank, Richard “Groove” Holmes, Clifford Scott and The Crusaders during this period.

For sheer blowing over the bar line prowess, few guitarists can rival Joe Pass. He states his cases in no uncertain terms on a burning quartet rendition of “Night And Day” from 1964 and a fiercely swinging “Comin’ Through The Apple” from a 1962 session with Groove Holmes and Les McCann. You can clearly hear where cats like Pat Martino and Jimmy Bruno are coming out of when you check out these early Pass tracks. His cheesy rendition of “More” (from 12-String Guitar Movie Themes ) is far less compelling. He demonstrates great finesse and lyrical beauty on a crystalline quartet version of John Lewis’ “Django” (from the classic 1964 album For Django) and shines in a big band context on material from Gerald Wilson’s 1962 album Moment Of Truth.

Most of his playing here consists of fluid, long bop and blues based single note lines, which is exhilarating in itself. Only on the Jimmy Van Husen chestnut “But Beautiful” do you get a sense of Pass’ incredible command of chordal voicings, a signature quality that would become more pronounced during his ’70s period with Pablo records. But for students of swinging, post-Wes guitar work, this one is an absolute must.