Context – double checking
I was YouTube surfing at lunch (like I almost always do) when I came across a video of Walter Rodrigues Jr. playing a jazz guitar arrangement of “Isn’t She Lovely”. I’ve seen a few of Walter’s videos before, and I’m always super impressed by them. Dude knows some chord shapes, for sure.
So I figured “I’m going to listen to more jazz guitar so I can get a feel for things and learn to play cool covers like this guy.” Step one is appreciated the medium, and all that. So after a cursory search of jazz guitarists I’m reminded that Joe Pass is one of the legends, so I give I Remember Charlie Parker a listen. And I’ve gotta say I wasn’t all that impressed.
I mean the technical ability demonstrated on the album is clear, I’m not trying to suggest Joe Pass doesn’t know how to play the instrument. But I like jazz that has a groove I can follow, and with much of this album being a solo-album, it’s hard for me to feel the groove without a drummer or bassist (or really anything else to provide context for what Joe is playing). I love jazz that grooves and bops and has a life about it, and translating the father of bebop into something as subdued as Joe Pass’s arrangements seems somewhere between ill-advised and criminal.
It doesn’t help that I’m relatively new to jazz, to be sure, but I found the constant tempo changes, interludes, and various other goings on in the album uncomfortable to my sensibilities. I don’t understand, and like a good American that which I cannot understand frightens and deeply upsets me.
I’m sure if I had more knowledge of Charlie Parker, jazz, or the guitar as an instrument I’d enjoy this more. I appreciated it, to be sure. I’m in awe of his skill, no doubt. But I wouldn’t listen to this again or even recommend it to someone unless I knew they were looking for more or less this specifically.