It's becoming well-documented how Jim Hall has and is exploring the art of the duo in depth, whether with Pat Metheny, Bill Evans, or more recent associations with Enrico Pieranunzi and Geoffrey Keezer. And as classic as albums such as Undercurrent (Blue Note, 1963) or Jim Hall and Basses (Telarc, 2001) are, these more recent duo efforts find Hall continually pushing himself and his partners in ways that build off the past but embrace more modern aspects of jazz without losing the average listener. All this knowledge is presented in the more traditional sounding Cam Jazz release Duologues, and the more encompassing Free Association (available through ArtistShare with a myriad of extras allowing listeners to share more with Hall and the experience of the performance).
Jim Hall / Enrico Pieranunzi
Duologues is a record of understated beauty that sneaks up on listeners. Greatness and respect is already well-established with both of these musicians given their careers thus far, and one would expect little less than an engaging record. But the ultimate beauty of their association here is how Jim Hall and Enrico Pieranunzi achieve a sense of understated playfulness through stimulating interactivity while dispensing with ego and safe zones.
Although Hall is recognized throughout the world as a guitarist without peer, Pieranunzi has flown under the radar in the U.S. save for his numerous highly rated albums also available on Cam Jazz such as Fellini Jazz (2003) and Doorways (2004). And just as his abilities are on full display there, Pieranunzi's talents are equally on display throughout Duologues. Working in tandem as he does on "Our Valentines," the understated feel that often permeates from the album is highlighted by Pieranunzi's single note runs weaving in and around Hall. Easily shifting gears from gentle ballad to more harried moments of force, the two have a simpatico that has a delicate balance of depth and beauty with no tricks.
There is often no real leader here as both men take the fore and recede in ways that defy the standard solo and comping roles. Although there are moments of upbeat forcefulness like "The Point of Issue" and its rollicking blues inflection, the mood here is one of astute beauty more so than anything else. And if the hardest thing to do in jazz is play a ballad in an open and honest way, these two are certainly masters of the music as they have no issues laying everything bare in a very glaring environment that can expose any imperfections.
Jim Hall / Geoffrey Keezer
In contrast to this understated beauty comes Free Association, which finds Hall in duet with another accomplished pianist, Geoffrey Keezer. Opening with "End the Beguine," a composition that could easily fit the mood of Duologues, Hall and Keezer opt for a more immediate tone and a sense of daring and open exploration rather than refinement. Keezer strums the strings internally while Hall's guitar tone has a more robust hollowbody sound, building to the core of the song which finds Keezer displaying his worthy talents and command of the keyboard in a more traditional style. But by the end of this solo, the two musicians enter a more free form mode responding and reacting to one another as they dart back and forth for the remainder of the six-plus-minute performance.
And while this more immediate tone, in sound as much as in pace, is more present more often than not, this duo is capable of the same beauty that Hall and Pieranunzi displayed on the beautiful "Abo No Azoaz," and even the more open-ended title track and its delicate simultaneous lines. Quite possibly the most affecting piece of music on either of these albums comes from Hall's solo performance of "October Song," where silence has as much impact as Hall's guitar.
One of the other beauties of Free Association is the fact that it is an ArtistShare release which provides listeners with a unique insight into the projectthis time around with over 80 minutes of additional material ranging from live quartet and duo performances to media galleries, even on the most basic of participant offers. Not alternate takes, but alternate performances, here you hear Hall and Keezer reshaping many of the same tunes found on the official release, revealing more of their incredible mindset. Hopefully there will be more coming from this duo in the near future.
Personnel: Jim Hall: guitar; Enrico Pieranunzi: piano.
Tracks: Duologue 1; Careful; From E. To C.; Our Valentines; Duologue 2; The Point at Issue; Something Tells Me; Jimlogue; Duologue 3; Dreamlogue.
Personnel: Jim Hall: guitar; Geoffrey Keezer: piano.
Tracks: End the Beguine; Bibo No Aozoa; A Merry Chase; Free Association; Furnished Flats (live); Counter Transference; Ouagadoudou; October Song.
Visit Jim Hall and Geoffrey Keezer on the web.