Donald's Encyclopedia of Popular Music



(b 4 December 1930, Buffalo, NY; d 10 December 2013, Greenwich Village NYC) Guitarist, one of the most highly regarded in modern jazz for harmonic and rhythmic subtlety, yielding to no one in technique and swing: he played on an enormous number of sessions because he was such a thoroughly fine musician he could fit in anywhere.

He grew up in Cleveland, played with local groups, studied music theory at the Cleveland Institute of Music and intended to become a teacher and a composer, but the guitar took over. He moved to Los Angeles '55, played with the Chico Hamilton Quintet '55-6, and the Jimmy Giuffre Trio '56-9: Giuffre's unique approach to composition and improvisation had an influence. Hall's duo with Bill Evans on Evans's Undercurrents '59 is still one of his best-known recordings. He backed Ella Fitzgerald '60-1, then made famous quartet tracks with Sonny Rollins '62-4, later on Bluebird CDs Sonny Rollins: The Quartets Featuring Jim Hall, three tracks on Sonny Rollins and Co. 1964, one more on All The Things You Are. Quartet tracks with Paul Desmond '59-65 on WB and RCA were compiled complete on a Mosaic six-LP/four-CD set '86. Hall co-led a quartet with Art Farmer; led his own trios and did much studio work, toured the world, from the 1970s often appeared with Ron Carter as a duo, also played solo.

His first own albums were trio sets Jazz Guitar '57 (with piano and bass, drums dubbed later), Good Friday '60 on Pacific Jazz; Guitar Workshop '67 (made at Berlin Jazz Festival) and In A Sentimental Mood '69 on Pausa (aka It's Nice To Be With You on MPS); quartet Where Would I Be? '71 and duo with Carter Alone Together '72 on Milestone; Concierto '75 on CTI with Desmond, Chet Baker, Roland Hanna on piano, Steve Gadd on drums, and Carter; trio Live! '75 made in Toronto with Terry Clarke on drums, Don Thompson on piano, duo Commitment '76 with Thompson on Horizon; same trio made Live In Tokyo and Jazz Impressions Of Japan '76 on Japanese A&M; duo Jim Hall And Red Mitchell '78 live at Sweet Basil on Artist House; Circles '81 with Clarke and Thompson (bassist Rufus Reid on one track), duos First Edition with George Shearing, Live At Village West and Telephone '82 with Carter, then new trio Jim Hall's Three '86 with Steve LaSpina on bass, Akira Tana on drums (on 'Bottlenose Blues' Hall plays twelve-string guitar), All Across The City '89 (quartet with Gil Goldstein on piano) all on Concord Jazz. After solo Dedications And Inspirations '94 (with overdubbing) Dialogues on Telarc '95 teamed him with five players on two tracks each: guitarists Bill Frisell and Mike Stern, Joe Lovano on tenor, Tom Harrell on flugelhorn and Gil Goldstein on accordion; Textures '97 (also with Lovano guesting) had an accent on orchestration. He released Panorama (Telarc '97), featuring live duets with Geoff Keezer, Kenny Barron, Greg Osby, Art Farmer and Slide Hampton.

Albums called Textures and By Arrangement featured his compositions for string, brass and vocal ensembles. Jim Hall & Basses featured at least five bass players, and there was a duets project with Pat Metheny, one of the many guitarists he profoundly influenced. He won the Danish Jazzpar Prize in '97, on which occasion his Quartet Plus Four for quartet with a string quartet was performed. A concert for guitar and orchestra called Peace Movement was played with the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra in 2004. At the end of that year Magic Meeting was recorded live at the Village Vanguard with Scott Colley and Lewis Nash, the audience invited to "take part" via his website in preparation, meeting the musicians, hearing outtakes and so on. His last performance was in November 2013 at a Jazz at Lincoln Center concert with guitarists John Abercrombie and Peter Bernstein. Some of this information is from a bio on his website prepared by his daughter and manager, Devra Hall Levy.