When Joe Pass recorded and released this first of his Virtuoso series of albums, he was 44 years old, and ready to reclaim his crown as king of jazz guitar after years of heroin abuse. As a solo artist playing only acoustic guitar in an amplified fusion era, the odds were stacked against him, but Pass boldly issued this, his most creative and improvisation-based work, to mass critical acclaim and widespread general public sales. The genius of Pass was that he was easily able to retain melodic lines of these standards while adding stretched-out, extrapolated thoughts on the top and bottom of the melodies. On every track, with each passing phrase, modified and extended line or poetic thought, Pass proves his unique style is better than all the rest. On the marvelous "Night & Day," classical-flavored "Stella by Starlight" with no small influence of Andres Segovia, faster than the pounding precipitation and pain of "Here's That Rainy Day," or purely improvised "Cherokee," Pass is at the top of his game. He occasionally concentrates more on the melody for the pensive "'Round Midnight" or the fleet "All the Things You Are," but meets any challenge during a masterful remake of "The Song Is You." There can be no doubt as to the essential nature of this incredible recording, a top five item for any jazz guitarist, one of the great modern-day contemporary albums, and essential listening for any serious music lover -- a must have item.
by Michael G. Nastos