Many guitarists have been amazed to discover that Joe Pass played Fender strong body guitars on his early jazz guitar music recordings. Usually associated with surf and rock and roll performers, the Fender Jazz Master and Fender Jaguar models appear unlikely foils for his advanced bebop design, but Pass prepared the nearly all of his circumstances. His Fender guitar sound is heard on recordings like 1961’s “Sounds of Synanon”, 1962’s “Something Special (Groove Holmes) and “Moment of Truth” (Gerald Wilson), and 1963’s “Catch Me”, his initially album as a leader. He moreover employed a Fender Bass VI six string bass guitar for a couple of tracks found on the latter date. Pass utilized a thinline Gibson ES-355 quickly during 1963. This was heard on his sessions as a sideman with Les McCann.
Pass played these atypical jazz guitars until a type and good soul, Mike Peak, gave him a Gibson ES-175D in 1963. This guitar is an archtop electrical acoustic with 2 humbucking pickups, a sunburst finish along with a 16 inch laminated body. The 175 produced the conclusive Joe Pass sound and became his workhorse instrument for almost all of his profession. It is heard prominently on these classic recordings as 1964’s “For Djang” and “Joy Spring”, 1967’s “Simplicity” and 1963’s “Jazz Concord” (with Herb Ellis).
In the 1970s and 1980s, Joe Pass dabbled with a some different jazz archtop guitars, including a custom produced James D-Aquisto archtop acoustic with a leaner body along with a flying choose up, and an Ibanez JP-20 signature model. He later lent his name to a line of Epiphone Joe Pass Signature guitars in the 1990s. In 1992 Joe took delivery of the custom created Gibson ES-175. According to jazz guitarist John Pisano, Pass’s longtime friend and frequent musical collaborator, this instrument has a slimmer body, a single humbucking pickup, a sunburst finish, gold-plated hardware, and an ebony fingerboard.
Pisano furthermore reported that this really is the guitar heard on Joe’s final recordings, including his last: “A Meeting of the Masters: Roy Clark & Joe Pass Play Hank Williams”.
Like many jazz guitarists, Pass utilized the throat pickup on his ES-175 virtually only and modified the tone control to make a warm bassy sound. Joe was provided with a full custom medium to thick gauged set of strings from GHS. Joe had an unusual habit of breaking or biting his picks in half to a small size that he felt was more comfortable. These were initially small teardrop shaped picks and after breaking them he played with all the pointed end.
In the 1960s, Joe generally conducted and recorded with many Fender tube amplifiers. He utilized many combo and piggyback models including a Twin Reverb along with a white tolex Bandmaster. The latter was enjoyed and heard mated to a Fender Jaguar in a telling 1962 TV performance included found on the “Genius of Joe Pass” DVD. Session images show that an Ampeg combo amp was selected during the landmark “For Django” recording. By the early 1970s, Pass flipped to Polytone solid-state amps and became among the company’s leading endorsers. Fortunately for ambitious guitarists, Joe Pass introduced many jazz guitar tab books and instructional DVD guides that teach his single note improvised solos and chord melody solos in addition to the pickstyle and fingerstyle guitar techniques he utilized to play them.