POP MUSIC/JAZZ : Joe Pass Set for 3-Week Stay; Hancock, Corea to Play

Despite several acclaimed appearances at the Montreux Jazz Festival and big-arena concert tours with Oscar Peterson and Zoot Sims, acoustic jazz guitarist Joe Pass has always come across best in a small-nightclub setting.

To fully appreciate the rapt inventiveness of Pass in action, one needs to see him from close--so that his fingers, as they tickle the guitar strings with astounding dexterity and sensitivity, are in plain sight rather than a distant blur.

Fortunately, San Diegans will have plenty of opportunity to do this, beginning Wednesday night during the respected virtuoso’s three-week engagement at Elario’s in La Jolla.

Pass, a compassionate, lyrical soloist who has been on the national jazz scene more than 40 years, is a veteran of countless early be-bop recording sessions with such heavyweights as Duke Ellington, Bud Shank, Les McCann and Chet Baker.


He later recorded duet albums with Ella Fitzgerald, Peterson and fellow guitarist Herb Ellis. More recently, Pass has issued a series of solo albums on the prestigious Pablo Records label.

At Elario’s, atop the Summerhouse Inn, Pass will be playing Wednesdays through Saturdays in a trio with two local jazz-scene veterans, bassist Bob Magnusson and percussionist Jim Plank.

Two other jazz greats, both from a later era, will also appear in San Diego this week. Pioneering fusionists Herbie Hancock and the Chick Corea Elektric Band will perform Saturday at the California Theater downtown.

Pianist Hancock was a child prodigy who at the age of 11 was already performing Mozart piano concertos with the Chicago Symphony Orchestra. Brought to New York by his mentor, trumpeter Donald Byrd, Hancock landed a solo deal with Blue Note Records and, in 1963, cut his first album of traditional jazz with sidemen Freddie Hubbard and Dexter Gordon.


Like fellow Blue Note artists Sam Rivers and Wayne Shorter, Hancock soon began experimenting with modes, tone colors and free rhythms. And, before long, he had joined the Miles Davis Quintet, gradually shifting gears from acoustic avant-garde to equally adventurous electric fusion.

In 1968, Hancock resurrected his solo career, this time pursuing a funk-fusion direction patterned after that of the Miles Davis Quintet. Since then, he’s alternated between fusion and the acoustic “free jazz” of his earlier years.

Corea, too, is a pianist who polished his fusion chops playing with Miles Davis--in fact, he was tapped as Hancock’s replacement upon the latter’s departure in 1968.

Three years later, Corea formed his own fusion group, Return to Forever, which featured such notables as bassist Stanley Clarke, Brazilian percussionist Airto Moreira and singer Flora Purim.


After many personnel changes, Corea retired the Return to Forever name in 1976 and spent the next few years playing acoustic jazz piano in a duo with (none other than) Herbie Hancock.

In the early 1980s, Corea went back to fusion with a new group, the Chick Corea Elektric Band, which he has continued to lead ever since. And, just this year, Corea and Hancock’s paths have crossed once again, this time on a national concert tour.

In pop-concert action this week, six veteran doo-wop vocal groups will share the stage at Sea World’s Nautilus Amphitheater on Friday for a nostalgic celebration of the harmonic black street music of the 1950s and early ‘60s.

Performing will be the Flamingos (“I Only Have Eyes for You,” 1959), the Dixie Cups (“Chapel of Love,” 1964), the Penguins (“Earth Angel,” 1954), the Silhouettes (“Get a Job,” 1958), the Duprees (“You Belong to Me,” 1962), and the Cadillacs (“Speedo,” 1956).


Also on Friday, Linda Ronstadt returns to the Civic Theater downtown for three nights of romantic Mexican ballads. Her last two shows at the Civic, less than three months ago, were instant sellouts.

Thursday, pop-jazz group Shadowfax and modern-dance troupe Momix will be at Symphony Hall downtown, British blues man John Mayall will perform at the Belly Up Tavern in Solana Beach, and Warlock will play heavy metal at the Bacchanal nightclub in Kearny Mesa.