Jazz Guitar Week: Joe Pass

“He looks like somebody’s uncle and plays like nobody’s business”

1929 – 1994

Difficult to have a Jazz Guitar Week without a mention of Joe Pass.  Pass was born into a working class American/Sicilian family.  His father saw early on that Joe had talent, and encouraged him to take the instrument that little bit further.  By 15, Pass was getting gigs with established musicians.  His heroin addiction saw him spending much of the 1950s in prison.  But he overcame it, and picked up his guitar again by the end of the decade.  He started recording again in the 1960s though most of his work came as a TV and recording session musician.  He worked with Frank Sinatra, Sarah Vaughan, Johnny Mathis, Ella Fitzgerald.  In 1974 Pass recorded his first solo album, Virtuoso, and The Trio (feat Pass, Oscar Peterson, Niels-Henning Orsted Pederson).  The Trio won a Grammy in 1975.

He died in 1994 of liver cancer.  The New York Magazine had this to say of him: “Joe Pass looks like somebody’s uncle and plays guitar like nobody’s business.”