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Filmmaker highlights reunion session in his documentary about guitarist Joe Pass

May 02, 2014|By Kirk Silsbee
  • The late jazz great Joe Pass is subject of a documentary, "Not An Average Joe," screening May 8 at the Brand Library.
The late jazz great Joe Pass is subject of a documentary,… (Photo courtesy…)

Dailey Pike didn’t come to Los Angeles in 1979 to make documentary movies. His life was stand-up comedy; he was on a first-name basis with Jay Leno and Arsenio Hall. He warmed up TV audiences for shows like “Cheers,” “The Drew Carey Show,” “Dharma and Greg,” “Ellen” and made a good living. But he also had a photographic eye.

“In the early ‘80s,” recounts the 62-year-old Pike, “the public access cable stations made time available to the public. They were hungry for content, and I’d drive around L.A. and turn my camera on some interesting things, like a street protest or something like that.”

At some point, Pike turned his hand to photographing jazz musicians. “I was at Charlie O’s,” he says, citing the late, lamented musician enclave in Van Nuys, “and I met Bob Barry.”

Barry, the preeminent SoCal jazz photographer, has an instinct for the poetic in his work. “I saw how great his photographs are,” Pike says, “and I couldn’t believe there was next to no information on him on the Internet.” Moved by Barry’s dramatic shots of local and visiting jazz musicians shot at the clubs and concert stages around town, Pike made a documentary about him: “Jazzography in Black and White” (2012). It tells the fascinating story of a master who came to jazz photography after a lengthy career of performing on theater and nightclub stages.

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Another serendipitous event gave Pike an unspoken but forceful directive. Frank Potenza, like all jazz guitarists, cherishes and reveres the album “For Django.” The late guitar avatar Joe Pass (1929-1994), assiduously rebuilding his life after a youth of drug addiction, recorded it for the local Pacific Jazz label in 1964. It remains a classic statement, topping all lists of landmark jazz guitar recordings. Potenza realized that the 50th anniversary of “For Django” was approaching, and that the musicians who participated — guitarist John Pisano, bassist Jim Hughart and drummer Colin Bailey — were all on the West Coast and still playing.

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