Born in 1929, Pass grew up the oldest of five children, son to a Johnstown, Pennsylvania steel worker. Music was to be his escape from manual labor, decided his dad, who set up a rigorous six-hour-a-day practice regimen for the boy.
Perhaps because guitar stayed in the background for so much of jazz’s history – relegated to the quietest corners of the rhythm section until amplification came along – few leaders on the instrument existed for Pass to idolize. His early heroes were horn players (Coleman Hawkins, Lester Young) and pianists (Art Tatum, Al Haig).
A gig with Ray McKinley got him to New York in 1949 where he became a jam session regular and a drug addict with an erratic career path. The fifties were lost years, playing strip joints in New Orleans or lounges in Las Vegas between hospital stays for his addiction.
It wasn’t until Pass decided to go straight and entered Synanon where Pacific Jazz discovered him in 1962 that he finally began getting the exposure and recognition he deserved. He guested with Pacific Jazz regulars Richard “Groove” Holmes, Les McCann, Gerald Wilson and Bud Shank before getting a date of his own.