Though it has been said 'tone is in the fingers' some might argue that using a Fender Jaguar to play jazz with is pushing things a little too far. Nevertheless, as this incredible video of Joe Pass (1929-1994) clearly shows, the offset that once sat proudly at the top of Fender’s pricelist is capable of doing far more than just surf-rock in the right hands.
Joe Pass probably isn’t the first name that springs to mind when it comes to the Fender Jaguar, however. After all, the great American jazz guitarist was one of the most famous endorsers of the Gibson ES-175, having played a 1962 ES-175D model for the best part of two decades almost exclusively prior to the launch of his Ibanez JP20 signature guitar in 1981.
A professional performer since childhood Pass was a jazz guitar prodigy. Unfortunately, the young musician developed a raging opiate addiction in his early 20s for which he eventually sought help via the Synanon treatment program. Down on his luck and without an electric guitar to his name, Pass borrowed a Fender Jaguar before acquiring the Gibson jazzbox he later became synonymous with.
“I’ve stuck with the same basic kind of Gibson, like the model I play now, an ES-175,” Pass told Guitar Player in 1976. “It’s the only kind of electric I’ve ever played when I had the chance. I’ve had this one since my Synanon days. I didn’t have a guitar of my own; all I had was a solid rock ‘n’ roll guitar that belonged to Synanon.
“I was playing a gig at a local club when this guy named Mike Peak came in and saw me playing jazz with a rock guitar. A few months later, on my birthday, I came home and there was this brand-new ES-175D that he had bought for me.”
Browse the Joe Pass catalog here.
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Rod Brakes is a music journalist with an expertise in guitars. Having spent many years at the coalface as a guitar dealer and tech, Rod's more recent work as a writer covering artists, industry pros and gear includes contributions for leading publications and websites such as Guitarist, Total Guitar, Guitar World, Guitar Player and MusicRadar in addition to specialist music books, blogs and social media. He is also a lifelong musician.