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Joe Pass Live at the Four Queens Hotel, Las Vegas, 1988

Ken Dryden By

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The guitarist worked without any planning, simply choosing songs from the immense musical library within his mind and working his magic upon each selection.
By the time of his death from cancer in 1994, Joe Pass was widely recognized as one of the top jazz guitarists of all time, especially for his virtuoso solo performances. Prior to his passing, I had an opportunity to do a phone interview with Pass and was rather surprised that the guitarist found it difficult to listen to his recordings, as he always felt that he could have played better.

The 1988 broadcast of his appearance at the French Quarter Room of the Four Queens Hotel in Las Vegas was compiled from several sets by engineer Brian Sanders. Pass was a bit difficult to work with, according to Sanders, for several reasons. He arrived without an amplifier and plugged directly into the p. a. system, which caused some problems with the sound, particularly a persistent hum in the background. Pass also demanded changes in the typical broadcast agreement, limiting the airing of the show to a single satellite feed (whereas most shows were rebroadcast at least once) and asking for the return of the master tape afterwards.

Even though this broadcast was compiled from several sets, it has the feeling of a typical performance by Joe Pass. The guitarist worked without any planning, simply choosing songs from the immense musical library within his mind and working his magic upon each selection.

The set begins with an introspective, swinging interpretation of "Come Rain or Come Shine, full of Pass' brief detours into elaborate improvisations. The guitarist's lyricism comes through in "Beautiful Love, while Clifford Brown's "Joy Spring, long a part of his repertoire, is simply breathtaking during his stunning flights through this bop masterpiece.

Pass also delves into the music of Latin American, including a swinging take of Ivan Lins' "Daquilo Que Eu Sei (which is slightly marred near the beginning because of some idiot screaming in the distance, though gambling was taking place not that far from the French Quarter Room) and one of Jobim's most beloved works, "Corcovado (Quiet Nights and Quiet Stars). But he saves the best for last with a slow savored, jaunty take of "Mack the Knife (while joking afterward with a musical illustration about the ridiculous tempo at which it is typically performed, followed by a lengthy workout of "Cherokee that features some of the most elaborate runs of the evening and a blazing finale.

There is the outside possibility that the master tapes were part of Joe Pass' estate and that his heirs may eventually seek to commercially issue this live set. But for the time being, only those who happened to think of taping this 1988 broadcast of the Four Queens Jazz Night From Las Vegas series are able to enjoy this music.

Track listing: Come Rain or Come Shine; All the Things You Are; Beautiful Love; Joy Spring; I Concentrate on You; Daquilo Que Eu Sei; Corcovado; When You Wish Upon a Star; Mack the Knife; Cherokee.

Personnel: Joe Pass: electric guitar.

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