Every tune Joe Pass played at Blues Alley last night was performed with the taste, poise and refinement he has cultivated so successfully over the years. Other guitarists have more varied repertoires than Pass, and certainly there are those that play faster, swing harder and dazzle an audience with greater flair. But when it comes to elegance of phrasing and purity of tone, Pass need not worry about the competition.
Several pieces he performed emphasized his invariably precise touch and single-note runs strung together like so many pearls on a necklace. The ballads were particularly lovely, with both "Here's That Rainy Day" and "Summertime" given warmly romantic, subdued readings. "Relaxin' at Camarillo," on the other hand, bristled with the energy of a Charlie Parker solo, and "Blues in G" possessed a similar spirit and headlong momentum. In the latter, Pass vividly displayed his mastery of the solo jazz guitar technique as he gracefully maintained independent treble, bass and chordal voicings at a fierce tempo.
Pass never seemed quite content with the sound coming from the stage monitor. Though the volume did vary somewhat as he alternated between finger- and flat-pick styles, the problem was never serious enough to compromise this thoroughly enjoyable evening of jazz.
Joe Pass performs solo at Blues Alley through Sunday.