Guitarist Jim Hall: a jazz innovator

Jim Hall was an American jazz guitarist. He was born on December 4, 1930, in Buffalo, New York, and died on December 10, 2013, in Greenwich, Connecticut. Hall was known for his elegant, lyrical playing style and musical eclecticism. He played with many jazz musicians, including Benny Goodman, Sonny Rollins, Coleman Hawkins, Bill Evans and Paul Desmond. He has also recorded numerous solo and duo albums.

Jim Hall’s musical childhood

Jim Hall was born into a musical family. His father, Edward Hall, was a trumpeter and conductor, and his mother, Gladys Hall, was a pianist. He began taking guitar lessons at the age of 11. As a teenager, Hall began playing popularire music with rockabilly and rhythm and blues bands. In 1949, he studied classical music at the Cleveland Conservatory. It was there that he met saxophonist Paul Desmond, with whom he later recorded several albums.

Jim Hall studied piano and trumpet before turning to guitar at the age of 15. He quickly learned the rudiments of jazz and bebop by listening to the great guitarists of the time, such as Charlie Christian, Django Reinhardt and Charlie Parker. In 1947, he made his professional debut with pianist Red Rodney.

Jim Hall’s career

Hall made his professional debut in 1949, playing in Terry Gibbs’ big band.

In the early 1950s, Hall moved to New York, where he worked with Sonny Rollins, Art Farmer, Ben Webster and Jimmy Giuffre. In 1953, he joined Benny Goodman’s orchestra and recorded his first album as a leader for Verve Records.

He went on to play with the orchestras of Benny Goodman, Stan Kenton and Les Paul. In the early 1950s, he began to concentrate on jazz.

In 1952, Hall joined Chubby Jackson’s quintet. He went on to play with trumpeter Chet Baker and saxophonist Sonny Rollins.

In 1953, he made his solo debut with the album “En Concert”. After playing with Baker and Rollins, Hall joined Oscar Peterson’s trio. In 1957, he played with trumpeter Miles Davis on the album “Round About Midnight”. Hall went on to play with Davis on several albums, including “Sorcerer”, “Nefertiti” and “Bitches Brew”.

In 1966, Hall formed the Jim Hall Trio with bassist Steve Swallow and drummer Joey Baron. The trio recorded several albums, including “Concerti”, “Textures” and “Jim Hall Live”.

In 1971, Hall played with pianist Bill Evans on the album “Undercurrent”. He then collaborated with Evans on “Intermodulation”. Hall continued to play with the Jim Hall Trio until his death in 2013.

He also recorded numerous solo albums, including “Alone”, “Dialogues”, “Guitar Solo” and “All Across the City”.

Jim Hall’s discography

As leader or co-leader

  • 1957: Jazz Guitar (with Carl Perkins and Red Mitchell)
  • 1957: Street Swingers (with Bob Brookmeyer)
  • 1960: Good Friday Blues (with the Modest Jazz Trio)
  • 1962: Undercurrent (duo with Bill Evans)
  • 1965: Bossa Antigua with Paul Desmond
  • 1966: Intermodulation (duo with Bill Evans)
  • 1969: It’s Nice To Be With You
  • 1971: Where Would I Be?
  • 1972: Alone Together (with Ron Carter)
  • 1975: Concierto (with Ron Carter, Chet Baker, Paul Desmond, etc.)
  • 1975: Live! (recorded in June 1975 at Toronto’s Bourbon Street with Don Thompson and Terry Clarke)
  • 1976: Jim Hall Live in Tokyo
  • 1976: Commitment
  • 1978: Jim Hall & Red Mitchell (duo recorded live at Club Sweet Basil)
  • 1978: Big Blues with Art Farmer (Quintet recorded at Electric Lady Studios, CTI Records)
  • 1981: Circles
  • 1982: Studio Trieste
  • 1986: Three
  • 1988: These Rooms
  • 1989: All Across the City
  • 1990: Live at Town Hall vol 1-2
  • 1991: Subsequently
  • 1993: Youkali
  • 1993: Alone Together
  • 1993: Dedications and Inspirations
  • 1993: Something Special
  • 1995: Dialogues
  • 1995: Live at the Village West (with Ron Carter)
  • 1997: Textures
  • 1998: By Arrangement
  • 1999: Jim Hall & Pat Metheny
  • 2000: Grand Slam: Live at the Regatta Bar (with Joe Lovano)
  • 2001: Jim Hall & Basses
  • 2008: Hemispheres (Jim Hall & Bill Frisell)

As a sideman

With Hampton Hawes

1956: All Night Session (3 albums – Definitive Records)

With Bob Brookmeyer

  • 1957: Traditionalism Revisited (Pacific Jazz Records)
  • 1958: Street Swingers (Pacific Jazz Records)

With Jimmy Giuffre

1958: Western Suite (Atlantic)

With Lee Konitz

  • 1959: You And Lee (Verve)
  • 1967: The Lee Konitz Duets (on two tracks – Milestone)

With Ella Fitzgerald

1960 : Ella in Berlin: Mack the Knife (Verve)

With Manny Albam

1962: Jazz Goes to the Movies (Impulse!)

With Sonny Rollins

  • 1962: The Bridge (RCA Victor)
  • 1962: What’s New? (RCA Victor)

With Bill Evans

  • 1962: Interplay
  • 1962: Loose Blues

With Art Farmer

  • 1962: Listen to Art Farmer and the Orchestra (Mercury)
  • 1963: Interaction (Atlantic)
  • 1963: Live at the Half-Note (Atlantic)
  • 1964: To Sweden with Love (Atlantic)

With Gary Burton

1963: Something’s Coming! (RCA)

With Ornette Coleman

1972: Broken Shadows (Columbia)

With Paul Desmond

  • 1963: Take Ten
  • 1995: The Paul Desmond Quartet with Jim Hall (Giants of Jazz/ita

Jim Hall’s music: a journey to the heart of jazz

Jim Hall’s music was elegant and melodic. He was one of the first jazz guitarists to use vibrato, and his playing technique is often cited as an example to follow. Hall was also known for his musical eclecticism, and played with many jazz musicians, from bebop to post-bop.

Jim Hall’s final years

Jim Hall was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease in 2011. He passed away two years later, on December 10, 2013, at the age of 83.

A musical legacy

Jim Hall was a virtuoso and eclectic jazz guitarist. He left a rich and varied discography, a testament to his talent and creativity. Hall was a pioneer of jazz music, and his influence is still felt today.

Jim Hall’s career awards

Jim Hall received numerous awards during his lifetime, including:

  • The National Medal of Arts,
  • National Endowment for the Arts Jazz Masters Award and
  • Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award
  • Chevalier des Arts et des Lettres

He was also a member of the American Academy of Arts and Letters.

Frequently asked questions about Jim Hall

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