Remembering Jim Hall (1930-2013)
by Jim Allen | December 16, 2013
Jim Hall was a poet of the jazz guitar, with a deft, subtle touch and a head full of adventurous concepts for taking his instrument into uncharted territory. Though he had tons of technique under his fingers, he'd no sooner rely on rote runs than he would execute an idea with anything less than perfection. Hall began burning his name into jazz lovers' brains in the late-'50s cool-school scene on the West coast, most notably with the Jimmy Giuffre 3, exploring improvisatory routes that were more about spontaneous composition than mere jamming. And however angular his artful visions might get, his concise phrasing and liquid-but-tactile tone always made Hall's work easy on the ears.
It was Hall's fluidity -- both of feel and artistic vision -- that enabled his career to span more styles and eras than any other jazz guitarist. Over the years he played with everyone from Ben Webster and Sonny Stitt to Bill Evans and Ornette Coleman, and was as comfortable leaping into a samba or calypso feel as he was with a burning bebop session or a free-form flight into the outer limits of his vast imagination. It's no surprise that Hall had a huge influence on a younger generation of guitar pioneers like Pat Metheny and Bill Frisell (both of whom he collaborated with). A restless muse kept Hall intensely active and vital up until his death on December 10, 2013, at the age of 83. He left behind such a vast recorded legacy that comprehensively mining its riches would take a lifetime, but here's a hefty collection of highlights to give you a head start.