In the history of jazz there have no doubt been numerous creative rolls like the one the late Joe Pass experienced in the early 1970s. But in Pass’ case, his DiMaggio-like streak was extremely well-documented.
In ’72, the maiden release of the Concord Jazz label was also the recording debut of Joe’s exciting partnership with Herb Ellis (one of the great guitar duos in the idiom’s history); a year later their set at the Concord Summer Festival provided the label with its second LP, and pianist Oscar Peterson enlisted Pass and bass phenom Niels-Henning Orsted Pedersen to record The Trio (which could have just as easily been called “Thee Trio”); and in 1974 Pablo released “Take Love Easy,” coupling Ella Fitzgerald with Pass as one-man six-string orchestra. By the time Pass’ monumental album of unaccompanied standards came out that same year, no one disputed its lofty-but-apt title, Virtuoso.
That Resonance, a live club date from December ’74, is culled from what wasn’t released from that gig on 1981’s Live At Donte’s (a double album) is (as if we needed any) further evidence of the man’s dizzying technique and vast storehouse of improvisatory ideas. Why were these 10 tracks “leftovers?” Probably the same reason the first batch wasn’t released until seven years after the fact: Joe already had a steady of stream of stellar product coming out.
As should be the case with far more jazz, you always got the feeling that on another night Pass’ approach to any given tune would bear no resemblance to tonight’s arrangement. Backed by the tasteful twosome of bassist Jim Hughart and drummer Frank Severino, Pass, then 45, showed that he could think on his feet, whether it’s hyper-speed (“The Lamp Is Low”), ballad (breathing new life into “Misty”) or bossa (“Corcovado”). But the price-of-admission standout isn’t a chops showcase; it’s Joe’s extended, unaccompanied intro to Harold Arlen and Johnny Mercer’s bluesy “Come Rain or Come Shine” – proof that his astonishing dexterity was always secondary to his harmonic inventiveness and, most of all, soul. It just doesn’t get much better than this.
This article originally appeared in VG‘s April ’01 issue. All copyrights are by the author and Vintage Guitar magazine. Unauthorized replication or use is strictly prohibited.