Jim Hall: Textures

COMPOSERS: Jim Hall
LABELS: Telarc
PERFORMER: Jim Hall (acoustic and electric guitars); Terry Clark (d, Scott Colley (db); Ryan Kysor (t); Claudio Roditi (flg); Joe Lovano (ss); Jim Pugh (tb); Derek DiCenzo (steel d); 16-piece string ensemble; Gil Goldstein (conductor)
CATALOGUE NO: 20 CD-83402

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Jim Hall is perhaps the most revered and loved of living jazz guitarists. At London’s Wigmore Hall in May, so many musicians and fans turned up for his pre-concert interview that the event had to take place in the concert hall rather than in the usual downstairs room.

He has been an inspiration to countless other guitarists including John Scofield, Pat Metheny, John Abercrombie and Bill Frisell, as well as many musicians on other instruments. He has also frequently been compared to trumpeter Miles Davis in that his guitar sound is warm and singing; he makes every note tell, his silences are a crucially eloquent part of his subtle, often understated work, and he has continued to grow musically all his life.

Even now, at the age of 66, this current release opens up a whole new area in his career, because for the first time Hall has composed and arranged all the music. There are seven pieces featuring various groups drawn from the above strings, brass and percussion, and throughout his writing is masterful. In two of the longest performances he works with the whole string ensemble.

The first, ‘Ragman’, with Hall on electric guitar, includes Joe Lovano soloing on soprano sax, and two percussionists playing ethnic instruments such as finger cymbal, clay pot, wood drum, goat hooves and fruit-husk rattles.

Almost ten minutes long, it develops into an ecstatically funky 6/4 blues with an eastern-flavoured string melody, and marvellously succinct contributions from Hall and Lovano. ‘Passacaglia’, three minutes longer, is in slow waltz time, with exquisitely economic string writing, and intensely contemplative playing by Hall on acoustic guitar.

The opening ‘Fanfare’ is played by seven brass, with Hall on electric guitar and Clarke on drums; ‘Reflections’, in 3/4, adds Scott Colley on bass and includes a lyrical flugelhorn solo by Claudio Roditi. ‘Quadrologue’ is a string quartet made up of electric guitar, viola, cello and bass, with the three acoustic instruments allowed at times to choose which motifs they play.

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The final piece, ‘Circus Dance’, is a humorous and satirical waltz featuring Hall, four brass and drums – a light-hearted end to a rich and brilliantly varied album. IC