Guitarist Joe Pass has sent more than one jazz buff to the dictionary recently in search of the meaning of "eximious," the title of his latest album. Webster's supplies the synonyms "choice" and "select," words that accurately describe both the contents of Pass's album -- including "Night and Day," "Lush Life" and "Love for Sale" -- and the unruffled elegance of these performances.
This is not a give-and-take trio session, though Pass is ably accompanied by Danish bassist Niels-Henning Orsted Pedersen and British drummer Martin Drew. Both are content to play supporting roles, shading Pass's unerring touch with light brushwork. On both "Lush Life" and the delightful "Serenata," Pass solos sublimely, but on virtually every tune his playing is melodic, his phrasing exquisitely precise.
"Eximious" won't suit everyone's taste. Pass's tone, supremely true, eschews bends and slurs: He's more inclined to sway than swing. His skills as a collaborator are more evident on other recordings (with both Oscar Peterson and Jimmy Rowles), while his early "virtuoso" albums remain pristine models of solo jazz-guitar performance. What "Eximious" offers is a choice blend of both styles. ON RECORD, ON STAGE THE ALBUM THE JOE PASS TRIO -- Eximious (Pablo 2310-877). THE CONCERT JOE PASS TRIO, this Friday through Sunday at Blues Alley.