Concord Records is celebrating its 30th Anniversary, and what better way than to reissue the first two records which helped put it on the map as one of the most consistent mainstream jazz recording labels.The recent double-disc set, Arrival, is in actuality Jazz/Concord, the label’s official debut release of ’73 done in the studio, and its follow-up Seven, Come Eleven, recorded live the day after, though not released until the following year. Both include the wonderfully paired guitarists Herb Ellis and Joe Pass, with the complementing bass and drums of Ray Brown and Jake Hanna, who together perform a valuable lesson in Accompanist 101.
The Texas-born, Charlie Christian-influenced Ellis (turning 82 later this year) replaced Barney Kessel in Oscar Peterson’s trio exactly 50 years ago. It was in this trio that he began his life-long association with the late bassist Ray Brown. Joe Pass, another Peterson trio associate, redefined the art of solo jazz guitar in live performance and recordings. Here the two together are so suitably matched that both of these records have become essential listening experiences not only for jazz guitarists, but guitar players and fans of all genres.
The studio session begins with Jerome Kern’s “Look for the Silver Lining,” featuring Hanna’s fine brushwork. It is after the first few minutes, when Brown and Hanna drop out, that the serious guitar interplay foreshadows what is in store from this dual guitar frontline. For less than a minute-span, the two go head-to-head as if they were in a boxing match that could only last a single round!
Ellis and Pass take guitar interplay a step beyond the norm, finishing one another’s thoughts and expanding upon them, creating an ever-evolving dialogue infused with the history of the electric guitar in music, from blues and jazz to rock. The live session’s title track, “Seven, Come Eleven,” is only one of the many chestnuts found on both recordings. Hanna is prominently featured on high-hat, cymbals, and snare while the two guitarists interact on such a high and rapid-fire level that it’s a wonder one can think let alone play as fast and accurately as they do. Relentlessly pushing one another from beginning to end without reprieve, it’s no wonder that Ellis’s announcement of the tune at the end was interjected with Pass saying, “No, the name of that tune was fast!”