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Virtuoso In New York

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Album Review

The saying that "life begins at 40" is certainly open to debate — especially if you live in a youth-obsessed culture like the United States. But for jazz artists, there can be some truth in that saying; the history of jazz is full of artists who did some of their best work after 40. Joe Pass is a perfect example; Pass turned 40 in 1969, and the '70s were an amazingly productive time for the late guitar icon (who recorded frequently during that decade thanks to Pablo founder Norman Granz). In fact, Pass did so much recording during the '70s that albums of previously unreleased material were still coming out long after his death from cancer in 1994. Virtuoso in New York, for example, is an album of recordings that went unreleased for 29 years; recorded in 1975, these Granz-produced performances didn't see the light of day until 2004. And for serious Pass collectors, the arrival of Virtuoso in New York is very good news; performing unaccompanied — no bass, no drums, no piano — Pass is in fine form on familiar standards like "The Way You Look Tonight" and "We'll Be Together Again." The solo guitar format is one that Pass was quite fond of, and it serves him enjoyably well whether he is turning his attention to George Gershwin's "How Long Has This Been Going On" or Kurt Weill's "Mack the Knife" (also known as "Moritat" or "Threepenny Opera"). As much as Virtuoso in New York has going for it, this 49-minute CD falls short of essential — there are no compelling reasons why someone with a more casual interest in Pass' legacy would choose this release over, say, 1973's stunning, absolutely essential Virtuoso. Nonetheless, Virtuoso in New York is a pleasing disc that the guitarist's hardcore fans will easily enjoy.


Born: 13 January 1929 in New Brunswick, NJ

Genre: Jazz

Years Active: '50s, '60s, '70s, '80s, '90s

Joe Pass did the near-impossible. He was able to play up-tempo versions of bop tunes such as "Cherokee" and "How High the Moon" unaccompanied on the guitar. Unlike Stanley Jordan, Pass used conventional (but superb) technique, and his Virtuoso series on Pablo still sounds remarkable decades later. Joe Pass had a false start in his career. He played in a few swing bands (including Tony Pastor's) before graduating from high school, and was with Charlie Barnet for a time in 1947. But after serving...
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Virtuoso In New York, Joe Pass
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