Online since August 2002

Pass views local gigs as mini-vacations
(This article originally published in the San Diego Evening Tribune on November 29, 1989.)

Published April 2006

At home in Los Angeles for a few days after returning from a tour of Europe, legendary jazz guitarist Joe Pass was busy unpacking from one trip and re-packing for another.

Joe Pass

Turbula recommends Joe Pass:  Virtuoso
Joe Pass: Virtuoso
Pablo / Fantasy Records: 1973

To hear sound clips or learn more about this release, Turbula recommends viewing its Amazon.com entry.

Dizzy's Big 4
Dizzy's Big Four
By Dizzy Gillespie, Joe Pass, Ray Brown and Mickey Roker
Original Jazz Classics / Fantasy Records: 1974

To hear sound clips or learn more about this release, Turbula recommends viewing its Amazon.com entry.

Easy Living
Easy Living
By Ella Fitzgerald and Joe Pass
Pablo / Fantasy Records: 1991

To hear sound clips or learn more about this release, Turbula recommends viewing its Amazon.com entry.

While both the trip to Europe and his upcoming two-week stay in San Diego are working visits [Pass was in the regular rotation of top-rank jazz artists at Elario's atop the Summer House Inn in La Jolla in the late 1980s and early 1990s], Pass views his semi-annual San Diego appearances as mini-vacations.

"I'm very comfortable playing with (pianist) Mike Wofford, (bassist) Bob Magnusson and (drummer) Jim Plank – it's like a respite for me," he said by phone.

"I do so much solo work, it's nice to play with them."

Pass, who was a favorite of Count Basie's and remains one of Ella Fitzgerald's [this was written in 1989], confirmed that he and his wife are considering a permanent move to San Diego. "We haven't decided yet, but we'll be looking around during our visit," he said. If he does move here, he would join a growing number of prominent jazz musicians who have made their homes in San Diego – including Jeannie and Jimmy Cheatham, saxophonists Charles McPherson and James Moody, and the above-mentioned trio. [Note: Pass never did move to San Diego.]

Those fans of Pass' introspective guitar work who are unable to get out see him live can watch him on the PBS television network. Pass was taped last spring for a segment of Paul Marshall's "Club Date" series at the KPBS-TV studios on the campus of San Diego State University. The half-hour show captured him both solo and with the Wofford trio, performing a selection of standards.

Pass' style of playing, particularly during improvisations, is understatement. He is not the sort to play wild solos or to amplify his guitar much above conversational levels. Indeed, at his performances it is quite common to hear the more committed of his fans try to "hush" and "shh" the more talkative in the audience between songs. One loud table can make it difficult for everyone else in the room to hear his playing.

But for those who do pay attention, the results are much worth the effort. His smooth arpeggios and chord progressions belie to the casual listener the imagination that sparks his playing. Themes for extrapolation and exploration are drawn from the entire history of American popular song, and are reworked into unique passages blending the original with Pass' jazz medium.

It is this type of playing that lends itself so well to the world of television, in which the up-close focus of the camera brings to the fore that which might otherwise be overlooked.

The Pass segment of "Club Date" is the second in the series third season, which has been picked up by more than 100 PBS stations. Other shows this season include Jimmy McGriff and Hank Crawford, Mose Allison, Jimmy Witherspoon, Art Farmer and Harry "Sweets" Edison.

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