Darryl Hall: Subtle Touch

Bassist Darryl Hall has assembled a flexible team for his debut CD, featuring soprano saxophonist Sam Newsome, violinist Megumi Okura, pianist Jim Ridl and drummer Steve Hass. In settings from duo to quartet, these sure-handed players interpret Hall’s eight ballads to boppers, with Hall going solo on the clever Oscar Pettiford classic “Tricotism.”

Philadelphia-born and NYC-based, Hall is a thoughtful player who doesn’t dominate or lean to flashy embellishment on this appropriately titled session. Rather, he creates tender solos and meticulous support, letting his colleagues shine on his winning originals that speak volumes (and beg for lyrics). Hall shows warmly caressive spirit on the canorous “Urban Folk Song,” and bops at his best on “From the Source,” a vigorous quartet workout that yields space to Newsome, Ridl and Hass. Adding sonorous variety to the album, Okura nicely augments (with Ridl and Hall) the opener, “In the Near,” and graces “Calm on the Prairie,” a drumless quartet number containing a sweet, repeating Japanese theme and Newsome’s spacious innovations suggesting animal cries.

Hall’s exceptional writing talents and the imagination he’s applied to all aspects of the project, including talented, well-chosen teammates, make this an outstanding debut.