My latest guitar is an Epiphone Joe Pass Emperor II. My usual practice is to buy only US built guitars but I recently obtained an Orient built Epiphone ES 175 to keep at our French summer home. I was very impressed by the quality and performance, being in a position to compare it with my USA built Gibson ES 175.

Not being able to resist a bargain I was offered a secondhand Joe Pass for an absolutely bargain price that included a hard shell, fitted case. Joe Pass, who died in 1994, was arguably the greatest jazz guitarist of his age, maybe of all time. Born Joseph Anthony Jacobi Passalaqua of Sicilian parentage, he played with most of the twentieth century jazz greats, including Ella Fitzgerald, Oscar Peterson and George Shearing. He accompanied artists like Frank Sinatra, Sarah Vaughan and Johnny Mathis.

Epiphone Joe Pass Emperor ll

It may be indicative to note that through his career Joe favoured a Gibson ES 175. I suppose that at some time Gibson (owners of the cheaper Epiphone brand) paid Joe to endorse a model in the Epiphone range, which are usually less expensive, far East made, versions of Gibsons. The Emperor is unusual in that there is no Gibson equivalent. The version I have, is made in Korea although the latest models are Chinese.

In my view it’s a nice guitar. What I particularly like is its relatively light weight when compared with other arch tops (ES 175) and thin lines (ES 335). It seems to be well received by knowledgeable industry critics. The build quality seems excellent with a maple body and spruce top. The neck is really good and I imagine works well for larger as well as for small hands (I have very small hands). Hardware is premium quality with Grover machine heads, US  Probuckers and typical Gibson controls.

I have rather got used to playing my Gibson ES 175 acoustically as it avoids the hassle of amplifiers and leads. The first thing I did was to replace the tape wound strings  on the Emperor with a set of wire wound RotoSounds that suit me better. There is a huge price differential between the Emperor and the ‘175 and in the final analysis, I guess it shows. Sadly, it won’t replace the Gibson as my everyday squeeze.