Blues, ballads, bossas, burnersit made no difference to the late Joe Pass, an uncompromising perfectionist who took them all in stride and was, if anything, almost too flawless to arouse in the listener an earnest emotional response. Listening to Pass, one quickly gains the impression that there wasn't anything he couldn't doan impression that is borne out by his uncanny ability to weave deceptively candid single-note lines into a remarkably poetic tapestry while swinging prodigiously in any context.
These radiant sessions with Germany's spit-polished NDR Big Band, the most recent of which was recorded in February 1992, a little more than two years before the guitarist's death at age 65, show that age did not wither nor custom stale Pass's extraordinary talents. The '92 date, which encompasses half a dozen of the disc's 15 selections, is given a symphonic veneer by the Radio Philharmonie of Hannover whose lustrous strings complement and amplify NDR's brass, winds and rhythm. Pass wrote five of the tunesa (Sweet) Bossa, (Fragments of) a Blues (with its deft allusions to "Old Man River"), a brace of ballads ("For Nina," "I'll Know") and a "Waltz (for Django)."
The rest are standards except for Horace Silver's jazz evergreen, "Sister Sadie," and Benny Goodman's "Soft Winds." Everything is impeccably interpreted, from Burton Lane's "On a Clear Day" to "Polka Dots," "Love for Sale," "Indian Summer," "More Than You Know," "Star Eyes" and "Lullabye of the Leaves. "While Pass takes most of the solos, pianist Walter Norris is heard on "Love for Sale," he and vibraphonist Wolfgang Schlüter solo on "Soft Winds," and NDR's resident director/trombone virtuoso, Jiggs Whigham, adds a couple of convincing choruses on "Lullabye." This isn't music to incite one's passions. The atmosphere is that of relaxed, almost effortless ad-libbing by a musical colossus who was completely unfazed by the formidable presence in his vicinity of a thundering big band.
On a Clear Day, For Nina, Polka Dots and Moonbeams, Love for Sale, Indian Summer, Sweet Bossa, Fragments of Blues, I'll
Know, Summer Night, Waltz for Django, More Than You Know, Star Eyes, Lullabye of the Leaves, Soft Winds, Sister Sadie
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