Exquisite Music From Guitarist Jim Hall
4/20/2014 4:22:11 AM - Jazz guitarist Jim Hall has only played Hartford twice during the past 30 years. The Hartford Jazz Society last featured him in 1979 for a duet performance with valve trombonist Bob Brookmeyer.

On Saturday, Hall's trio rectified the long-overdue absence with 90 minutes of exquisite musical explorations, presented by the HJS at the Wadsworth Atheneum's Aetna Theater. Hall and his colleagues - bassist Scott Colley and drummer Lewis Nash - have developed a level of rapport second to none. The three have worked together often during the past decade, although not strictly as a trio until 2004.

Their ability to listen to one another was especially notable during a freely improvised piece the bandleader dedicated to the search for world peace. Each musician shared a personal musical statement - Colley created a yearning bowed bass solo, Nash approximated whispered prayers with his brushes, Hall strummed folk-like statements on his beloved Sadowsky guitar - yet the overall feeling of the music was one of unified purpose. The superb interplay made it hard to believe this music was being created on the spot, without the benefit of a written score.

The trio's rapport also enhanced more conventional material, from a charming "All the Things You Are" to the evening's encore number, "Skylark," the Hoagy Carmichael standard. The latter offered a final chance for Nash to display his impeccable brush work. While honoring the timeless beauty of this famous melody, the three openly exchanged ideas in one poetic dialogue after another.

Hall's dedication to interaction was evident in the way he positioned himself onstage. He sat to the side of the others, in profile to the audience, so that he could maintain eye contact with his bandmates as they performed. His relaxed, cheerful banter with the audience and his associates drew all closer together.

Five of the trio's 11 selections were Jim Hall originals. The earliest piece, "Careful," was written during the 1950s, very early in the guitarist's career. This 16-bar blues remains a favorite for its composer and may well be the most covered composition in his repertoire.

"Hide and Seek," on the other hand, featured Hall as intrepid sonic adventurer. Here he altered his sound with a variety of electronic effects and used the strings below the bridge of his guitar to create a motif seemingly inspired by bird song. Colley and Nash pushed the envelope with him.

The years have not diminished Jim Hall's artistry. At 76, he's still finding new ways to create, while also reminding younger listeners of the importance of musical traditions. His concert was a treat for the sold-out Hartford audience, a sure sign he should be invited back to the area soon.
Chuck Obuchowski, The Hartford Courant, May 21, 2007
Mr. Hall has a technique equivalent to that of any classical guitar soloist and an electronics kit that could out-tech any rock 'n' roller, but his music is strictly jazz.

-- Will Friedwald, The New York Sun
...Hall and his colleagues - bassist Scott Colley and drummer Lewis Nash - have developed a level of rapport second to none...The superb interplay made it hard to believe this music was being created on the spot, without the benefit of a written score... the three openly exchanged ideas in one poetic dialogue after another...

-- Chuck Obuchowski, The Hartford Courant
"His intensely intimate music gets under your skin rather than grabbing you by the lapels....Mr. Hall has a sound as recognizable as the voice of a friend. His floating, fine-grained tone is smooth and edgeless, his wide-spaced harmonies subtly oblique."

-- Terry Teachout, Wall Street Journal
"Jim Hall is the reigning master of the jazz guitar. This poetic player says more with fewer notes than any living improviser."

-- The New Yorker
"A master of understatement, Hall is one of jazz's most respected improvisers, an artist who wields his guitar like a paintbrush, shaping and shading each note to achieve just the right hue and texture. Modest and soft-spoken, he has inspired two generations of jazz musicians with his vast harmonic knowledge and restless musical curiosity."

-- Andrew Gilbert, San Jose Mercury News
"His work speaks as much to the human condiction as any artist past or present, and if one looks and listens attentively, there are great rewards to be found there."

-- Victor Magnani, All About Jazz
"Mr. Hall's dry-toned guitar playing with its discrete, deliberate notes and sliding chords works like a bluesy telegraph signal."

-- Ben Ratliff, The New York Times
"Since 1955, Hall, jazz' most lyrical and harmonically fertile guitarist, has jousted with top jazz stars like Ella Fitzgerald and Sonny Rollins. And his approach has shaped a younger generation of guitar heroes, from Metheny to Bill Frisell."

-- Gene Santoro, New York Daily News
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