Joe Pass, the "President of Be Bop", and one of the most gifted interpreters and improvisational musicians of his generation, was born today, January 13, 1929, The arc of Pass' lifetime coincided with the evolution of electric jazz guitar. His full, muscular tone was inspired by his heroes-- Charlie Christian, Django Reinhardt (who performed with an Epiphone when he briefly went electric) and Wes Montgomery, but in many ways his approach to the instrument was deeper, drawing on his thorough understanding of chord theory and his inspired approach to melody.
Pass was the last of his kind, drawn to the profession when electric guitar was still a new instrument. In his youth before a disastrous decade-long fight with heroin, Pass' sense of musicality was shaped and challenged by the most sophisticated players of his time including Charlie Parker, Dizzy Gillespie, and Art Tatum. And when he returned to the scene in the early 60s, he quickly re-established his career with a style that combined dense chords and driving rhythm with a sort of musical "second sight," an intuitive feel for the inner soul of a composition. When playing in an ensemble, Pass showed extraordinary empathy and could make a group of musicians sound like a band. And when unaccompanied, as he often was on his now class recordings for Norman Granz's Pablo label in the 60s and 70s, Pass could make standards like "How High the Moon" or "All of Me" seem like new compositions.
"Joe was an extraordinary musician," remembered Epiphone President Jim Rosenberg. "I had the pleasure of meeting Joe Pass back in 1992 when he performed at a trade show and dealer meeting. When he said he'd help design a signature model, we were thrilled. Jazz is a big part of Epiphone's history. And you can't get any more maverick than a jazz musician."
The Joe Pass Emperor-II PRO combines the classic lines of an archtop that any of Pass' heroes would have recognized.
The medium-sized maple body is easy to hold and the arched Select Spruce top with hand-scalloped bracing and sound post has a full and nuanced tone acoustically, which makes it perfect for players who want to use the inherent tone of the Emperor with minimal amplification. If you're turning up the Emperor II-PRO, Epiphone's nouveau classic ProBucker pickups--now with coil-splitting!-- have that elusive late 50s tone. ProBuckers are made with the same alloy as the original handwound humbuckers including 18% Nickel Silver unit bases and covers along with sand cast Alnico II magnets and high quality 4-conductor lead wire. Each ProBucker pickup is also vacuum wax potted to eliminate microphonics.
When designing the Emperor, Joe requested a maple, SlimTaper "C" profile neck which makes it easy for any-sized hand to at least attempt some of Pass' favorite chord inversions. The floating rosewood bridge and vintage styled gold scroll tailpiece provided stable tuning and intonation along with Grover® RotomaticTM 18:1 ratio machine heads.
But the Epiphone Joe Pass Emperor-II PRO is not just for jazz guitar. Play one today at your favorite Authorized Epiphone dealer and read our in-depth feature on Pass' life and work here.