Epiphone Joe Pass Emperor-II Pro is calling my name...

Discussion in 'Epiphone Guitars' started by Jam Handy, Nov 18, 2020.

  1. Jam Handy

    Jam Handy Member

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    https://www.samash.com/epiphone-joe...chtop-hollow-body-electric-guitar-etepxxxxx-p

    I got a lot to say about this, so here goes...

    I have played jazz since the very beginning of my guitar journey. I got my first guitar Christmas 1975 and the next year I was playing with the high school jazz band. I played with that group through all 4 years of high school. In 1984-86 I studied privately with Robert Conti (https://www.robertconti.com/) who now has a huge selection of DVDs on the market. I moved to L.A. mid- '86 and through a friend at G.I.T. I got to meet and study with Phil Upchurch (one of his claims to fame was being arranger and rhythm guitar for George Benson through several gold records). After that between 1987-1989 through my same contact at G.I.T. (Guitar Institute of Technology in Hollywood) I was able to meet and study with Ted Greene at his apartment in Encino, CA. In those days I called myself a "jazz purist" in that the only music I would listen to was a specific type of swing/straight ahead playing of jazz standards. Joe Pass was and forever will be my favorite guitarist of any genre for all time.

    For all these years and all this time I have never owned a real "traditional" jazz guitar. My axe of choice was a 1980 Les Paul Artisan (which I still have) tuned donw D to D or C to C and strung up with a set of Dean Markley jazz .012's... When I played it on the bride pickup with those strings it gave me all the thick and rich tone I needed.

    Funny thing is, they've had an Epiphone Joe Pass Emperor for years and I had never played one. I sort of poo-ppoed the whole "signature model" thing as I don't pay much attention to a guitar just because it has a famous person's name on it. I've always thought that was kind of a "hokey" way for the musical merchandisers to say "if you buy this (signature model) you'll play and sound just like this (signature model famous name guitarist)". Like, if you bought a Stevie Ray Vaughan signature Strat it was in some way supposed to make you sound like SRV. I don't think so... you have to first learn to tune the guitar, then learn some chords, then learn some Pentatonic scales... well it doesn't happen overnight just because you buy a guitar with a famous person's name on it... but they sell shyteloads of these items these days. Especially in some of the brands like Jackson and ESP/LTD who have endorsement with various heavy metal players. Sorry, the one true and only way to honestly play better is to woodshed until your fingers bleed. Buying gear won't do it. But they market stuff like it does work that way...

    Tonight I wandered into my local Sam Ash store, actually to try out 2 fretless basses. Both were a wash for various reasons, so while I was there I thought I might browse their guitar stash. I've got 25 or so (lost count actually) guitars, Strats, Teles, Les Pauls galore... odd thing-a-ma-jigs with special switching... I'm kinda full-up on "normal" guitars. So I was looking at semi hollow and hollow body guitars. I picked up a Fender Cliassic Vibe Starcaster and I was impressed. It had some really good sounds in it... I only have one semi-hollow body anything, I have a sort of beat up Epiphone Dot (aka ES-335). I will probably happily part with it soon.

    Just recently I had been browsing online places and saw the Epi Joe Pass in a nice vintage natural. I even saved a couple pictures of it. While I was at Sam Ash... there it was all the way up on the guy had to get the rolling ladder level top shelf. I asked him if he'd get it down for me and I am glad he did.

    I pulled up a chair face-to-face with a Roland JC-40 amplifier, one of my favorites in the store and will probably come home with me soon. I plugged in and... well the guitar was in tune for one thing. Both of the basses and the Fender Starcaster I tried before this all needed a tweak to the tuning.Not the Joe Pass model. The first thing I noticed was that when I strummed regular "cowboy chords" (G-C-D, etc) it had a very nice acoustic guitar sound. I switched it to the neck pickup and tried some add 9 and other more complex chords and it gave them back to me with sonic precision. ... "Wow" I thought... Not only was it in tune, it seemed to have a pretty decent intonation. If anything maybe a minor tweak to the action to make it more like butter, but the action from the factory was better than the Starcaster for sure. I suppose for twice the money it should be... so you would think... not always the case these days but final fit and finish has gotten way better across many brands and models these days.

    I have to comment that I just love humbucker guitars with push/pull for coil split. Pulling the pots out for split gave the guitar a thinner sound as expected, but I think even a little more subdued that really fit the jazz chords I was chunking into it. I haven't been this impressed with the "soul" inside of any guitar I've test drove in a long long time.

    I'm now determined to bring this one home. All the years I have sort of scoffed at Epiphone for daring to use Joe Pass's name on an axe. Previously I had thought it was kind of silly. But as far as the guitar brand, and the limitations Gibson upper management puts on the quality of components, hardware and wood for an Epiphone, they knocked it out of the park with the Joe pass Emperor-II Pro Archtop... Now I gotta have one...

    My last purchase was an Epiphone Firebird of which I am totally in love with. If you missed my thread and review of that beauty it's over here...
    https://www.epiphonetalk.com/threads/epiphone-firebird-is-calling-my-name.5006/#post-77435

    If you can find one in stock, buy it... the Firebirds Epi is making are fantastic.

    It'll be 2-3 weeks before I can bring the Joe Pass home, when I do (and I will) I'll give an extension of what I think of it once I've had it a little while. The juicy yummy tone I was coming up with after tonight's test drive is still buzzing around in my brain. And I think one of those Roland JC-40 amps are destined to take up space in my place as well... I love the clean tone and if you dare, a chorus to die for, LOL...


    Jam

    ps. I forgot to add that the Joe Pass has Grover tuners that aren't going to need to be replaced any time soon... and a really nice spruce top that resonates very well, and flame maple sides and back... not only a toneful yummy experience to play... its pretty, too... LOL

    Here's some pictures I scarfed from reverb and other places
    fullsizeoutput_1408.jpg
    flame maple back.jpg
    fullsizeoutput_140c.jpg
    Nice flame sides and back...
    preview.jpg
    preview (1).jpg
     
    Last edited: Nov 18, 2020
  2. Davis Sharp

    Davis Sharp Well-Known Member

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    It's a gorgeous guitar.
     
  3. Rick Davey

    Rick Davey Member

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    Sounds like you found a good one. Buy that one. It's a beautiful guitar, and you've been around the block enough times to know when you are playing a first class guitar.

    My only experience with a Joe Pass Emperor was disappointing. An absolutely gorgeous guitar, but just completely dead.
     
  4. Jam Handy

    Jam Handy Member

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    That's why I like to do in-store test drives. Some guitars just have that "soul" (I call it). Its definitely not the same across all brands and models. Also why I don't buy guitars online. I don't have a lot of disposable cash to begin with, so I have to make sure if I'm walking out of the store with something (or most times, putting it on layaway because I rarely have cash enough to buy outright, LOL) it is not something I'm going to need to replace pickups with and stuff like that. It has to sort of "sparkle" with that "soul" on a test drive.

    I have picked up guitars before, only strummed them a little bit, and let out a sort of disgusted "yuck"... haha. It was either really dead sounding, or maybe the drets were cutting into my hand, not every guitar is a keeper for every person. Plus, I don't doubt someone else would pick up the same guitar and have no insta-bond with it.

    I've noticed that depending on the mood or emotions that day, those factors can affect a test drive. So on some items I like to put them back, and come in another day.

    The only thing I might buy online are pedals. There is a lot more consistency between pedals than guitars. Still, I'm not a gambler, I like to try a pedal in a store before I buy one.

    Another thing is... most times I like the social environment o f going to a guitar store. Usually its cool guys with a little bit of knowledge about the items they're selling. Which is one of the hundreds of reasons I've grown to hate Guitar Center. Its been my experience the sales guys at GC are usually young guys not far out of high school, jacking you up for high pressure sales, and have not a clue about the items they are selling. All they want from you is a sale to meet this week's sales quota.

    But God loves a great well-stocked mom and pop store. Not all stores can carry all items from all manufacturers, but some stores get it right. I don't have money for the high end instruments as I am disabled and live on next to nothing every month. But layaways are my best friend. I love browsing pawn shops, too. I've gotten some smoking great deals at pawn shops. A 2018 Fender (MIM) Classic Player Baja Tele ($300 in mint condition)... a 2018 Fender American Elite HSS Strat ($675 in mint condition, new they hover the $1,800-ish mark).

    Yes indeed, I found this one and I need to buy this exact guitar, not have them order me one later. THIS one has the "soul"....
     
    Rick Davey likes this.
  5. Rick Davey

    Rick Davey Member

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    I looked again at the pictures you posted, and I noticed there's a layer of "stuff" between the base of the bridge and the top of the guitar. I've never seen that on an archtop before, might be something they put there for shipping.
     
  6. Antigua

    Antigua Member

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    I love the oversized headstocks on those Epi's. I have a Swingster, which is almost same guitar, but with a Bigsby. I bought it in 2012 though, so manufacturing might have changed a lot since then. I love how it looks, but it seemed on the heavy side, with the Bigsby and the two humbuckers. I played a friend's Godin 5th Avenue, the model with a single pickup, and it weighed a lot less, had a thinner finish, and it seemed like a much better guitar for the purpose compared to my Swingster, but the Epiphones are still a lot better looking, IMO.

    Because of it's bulk and weight I feel like the Swingster sounds like a cross between a solid body as a full hollow, even though they are solid hollow. I think the Bigsby and two humbuckers probably weigh down the sound board quite a bit. I'd imagine the Joe Pass is similar in that way, not as resonant as a jazz box with a floating neck pickup, but not as solid sounding as a 335, and the like.
     

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