Joe Pass, solo guitar – Virtuoso [remastered] – Concord

by | Apr 16, 2010 | Jazz CD Reviews | 0 comments

Joe Pass, solo guitar – Virtuoso [remastered] – Concord OJC-31990-02, 52:54 *****:

If someone had to pick just one jazz guitar album to take to that fabled desert island, certainly Joe Pass’ 1974 breakthrough and breakout, Virtuoso, would head many lists. Pass was in his forties and had been a professional musician for three decades when he recorded the twelve tracks that make up Virtuoso. Pass was a traditionalist who was the antithesis of the then-current fusion cycle that focused on volume, connections to rock music and sometimes bombastic arrangements. Into this arena came Pass’ uncluttered interpretative presentation of pop standards, Broadway show tunes, jazz classics and one original.

There’s no reason to go into further details. Virtuoso was a phenomenal success and paved the way for a series of unaccompanied solo guitar releases. Pass won industry awards and topped the jazz polls and discovered he had a devoted audience that stayed with him until he passed away in 1994.

If listeners have not heard Virtuoso in a long time or have never sat back and enjoyed Pass’ utter control of his six string instrument, this newly remastered edition, part of Concord’s OJC Remasters series, is an excellent introduction or reexamination. Joe Tarantino’s 24-bit remastering matches the sonic clarity and audio fidelity of the previous stereo-only SACD version.

The OJC package also includes new, illuminating liner notes by jazz author and critic Doug Ramsey, which helps put Virtuoso into historical context and relates how Pass’ father relentlessly forced the young Pass into ceaseless practice, basically forging a prodigy through sheer work and discipline. Benny Green’s original liner notes are also reprinted, which touch on Pass’ artistry, craftsmanship and superior musical skills.  

Each of the twelve pieces is wonderful to hear. One highlight is the opener, Cole Porter’s “Night And Day,” which has some of the important components that earn this song collection the highest accolades. For one, there is Pass’ manner of complementing himself by performing melodies as he flows through chords, which to this day still sounds impressive. There is his clear, marked tone – listeners could always identify a Pass solo – and of course there were his furious fret-board runs.

Pass also had the uncanny ability to transcribe material that might have seemed impossible to translate to guitar. A fine example of this characteristic is Pass’ rendition of “Cherokee,” made famous by Charlie Parker. Pass equals Parker’s intensity note for note. The breakneck and acutely involved bop number shows there are few if any limits to what a fully-developed guitarist can do. Pass’s rendering of Thelonious Monk’s “‘Round Midnight” is also especially exultant. Pass gives the dark-toned tune a fresh outlook with flair and technical mastery seldom reproduced by any artist.

Although the remastering brings out every detail, there is nothing that can be done about the imperfections that emanate from the master recording. There’s a slight hiss that still plagues most tracks. At the same time, this reissue emphasizes the studio ambience and puts listeners in the booth with Pass.


1. Night and Day
2. Stella by Starlight
3. Here’s that Rainy Day
4. My Old Flame
5. How High the Moon
6. Cherokee
7. Sweet Lorraine
8. Have You Met Miss Jones?
9. ‘Round Midnight
10. All the Things You Are
11. Blues for Alican
12. The Song Is You

— Doug Simpson

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