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December 2001

Jim Hall
Jim Hall and Basses
Telarc

No doubt one of the beauties of being on the career level of Jim Hall-one of jazz's greatest guitarists, virtually a universally respected musician-is that he gets to do fun projects like this, where he plays and collaborates with some of his favorite, and some of the finest, bassists including Scott Colley, Charlie Haden, Dave Holland, George Mraz and Christian McBride. And while it goes without saying that any veteran bassist can fulfill all of the usual functions-play with great time and choose good notes-here Hall makes a special connection with each participant, drawing out performances that are always fascinating and sometimes unique.

Most of the material is by Hall or Hall and one or two of the participants. Cleverly titled, "End the Beguine!" ironically opens the program and features Holland and Hall (on acoustic guitar) in an exquisite, subtly percolating conversation that includes airy harmonics and enough dissonance to keep things spicy and adventurous while still remaining musical. Three of the tunes are soundscapes that explore the realm of texture, contrast and density. With Haden, "Abstract 1" finds Hall using a processed electric sound as the music moves in and out of time while organically bouncing back and forth between the two principals. Colley and Mraz are both featured on "Abstract 2" and "Abstract 3." The former performance skitters along a sticky web of disparate sounds and percussion effects (including some atmospheric arco work), while the latter features shifting, angular instrumental match ups that eventually evolve into a more conventional groove. "All the Things You Are," one of the program's two nonoriginals (the other being the Herzog/Holiday number "Don't Explain"), gets an "out" introduction before it assumes a more familiar form that supports some beautiful single-note guitar work that could only be played by Hall in terms of approach, shape and tone.

In the hands of a lesser figure, a project such as this could easily turn into an exercise in excess, but Hall's taste and integrity keep it on an artistic track throughout, making this a real treat for not only his admirers, but also anyone who appreciates fine, creative music.

Originally published in December 2001
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