About This Joe Pass Transcription:
Ever since starting to play jazz guitar about 40 years ago, I’ve been a fan of Joe Pass, particularly his solo playing. Back in the 70s I had several of his solo and duet books and enjoyed learning and practicing from them. Especially impressive was the way Joe could slip in and out of chords, single-lines and bass-lines in his playing. He did it so seamlessly that it often created the illusion they were all going on at once. So the other day when I saw this rare video clip on YouTube, I knew I’d have to transcribe and share it with you.
My First Encounter with Joe Pass:
I had the great pleasure and privilege to meet and speak with Joe Pass a couple times. As well as being an incredible artist, he was such a warm and humble person and his approach to music and the guitar was so totally practical. Our first meeting was around 1980 at a master class Joe gave in the little basement room of Dick Lurie’s music studio in Cleveland. About 6 of us paid $20 each to attend and Joe just played and opened up us about everything; the CAGED system, finding the relationships between you chord voicings and your scales and developing facility, practicing tunes, etc. Then he asked for a volunteer to get up and play something and I did. He was very complimentary and I have fond memories of that afternoon. The lessons learned that day guided me for a very long time (and probably still do).
My Last Encounter with Joe:
After that, I spoke with Joe briefly on breaks at a few of his solo gigs at Fat Tuesdays in NYC, but the last time I saw him was probably the most significant. I’d been playing duo gigs at a place called Cafe D’Angelico in Montclair, NJ and they decided to cut back to solo guitar. I didn’t really consider myself to be a “solo” jazz guitar player at that time, but the owners encouraged me to do it. So a couple months into this, Joe was playing right down the block at Trumpets and I was playing my first set. As I was playing, I became aware of someone standing behind me talking with the owner, so I glanced back over my shoulder and there was Joe Pass! (talk about an adrenaline rush!). I thought it would be weird to stop playing (New Yorkers are conditioned not to gawk at celebrities) so I kept on playing (but a lot more self-conscious now) and before I could finish my tune, Joe comes over to me, puts his hand on my shoulder, says “You sound beautiful man!” and left. So on my first break, I went over to Trumpets to catch part of his set (I had to get back to my own gig before he finished) and when I went back on my next break, he was already done and gone for the night. He may have already been sick at that time, because it was pretty early for a weekend gig at Trumpets to end, and I think this might have been one of his last gigs in the area before he passed away. But I’ll always remember the lessons I learned from him and his encouragement. Joe Pass was a great man!
How to Practice This Transcription:
The first thing I should probably point out is that although the description on YouTube calls this tune a “blues” this is technically incorrect because while it admittedly has some strong “blues-like” tonal qualities, it’s really a 32-Bar, AABA form. The basic changes are as follows:
1st A: G7|G7|C7|C7|G7,E7|A7,D7|G7,E7|A7,D7|
2nd A: G7|G7|C7|C7|G7,E7|A7,D7|G7|G7|
Last A: G7|G7|C7|C7|G7,E7|A7,D7|G7,E7|A7,D7|
You’ll probably find it most productive to learn the transcription 8-Bars at a time. Learning and memorizing this basic underlying harmonic structure will make it much easier to understand the substitutions Joe uses in this example. You’ll notice that most of the substitutions are simply chromatic chords used to lead into the main changes of the tune.
It seems that the audio is a little out of sync with the YouTube video, but if you observe Joe’s left hand, you’ll notice a few things. One obvious one is that he never seems to be stretching or doing anything uncomfortable. Another thing I’d like to point out is his fingering for the Root-7th-3rd Dominant voicings with 6th-string roots; he invariably uses the fingers 2-3-4 for these, making it possible to approach the next chord from a chromatic bass-note either above or below. Also notice that his hand stays in the same basic shape when he moves over to the 5th-string root Minor 7th and 7(#9) chords (with the addition of the 1st finger). Minimizing unnecessary left-hand finger movement and maintaining contact with the strings is one of the keys to smooth and connected chord playing.
What I really love about playing this solo is how easy it actually is once it’s under your fingers. Everything feels natural, and that’s kind of the point. It’s important to realize that great playing doesn’t have to be difficult (and probably shouldn’t be). It’s about the ways of the hand, and Joe’s hands knew some great “ways.” I hope that you’ll enjoy learning this transcription and that some of Joe’s “ways” will become your ways!
P.S. if you’re not on our mailing list, please sign up and be among the first to know when we add new articles and transcriptions. And as an added bonus, you’ll also get a free copy of my ebook Jazz Guitar Scale Studies: 44 Daily Warmups to Build Killer Chops.
Thanks so much for your ongoing support. I’ve dedicated my life to playing jazz guitar and sharing my knowledge with others. I hope that you enjoy the articles here.
Don’t forget to get your FREE eBook
(by signing up, you’ll also stay informed when new videos, lessons and transcriptions lessons are published)
P.S. If you love the lessons you find here, don’t be selfish. We make it easy to share with your friends. Just click on the SOCIAL BUTTONS at the bottom of this page to share this post on your favorite social network.