I do feel good about my playing. The instrument keeps me humble.
Jim Hall ”
There's a reason why jazz guitarists like Pat Metheny are humbled and respectful of senior statesman stringmaster Jim Hall. Since the days of the first recorded examples of free form improvisation, "Free Form", with the Chico Hamilton Quintet in 1955, Hall has been leading by example. The seasoned veteran did his thing at Dizzy's Club Coca-Cola recently in Manhattan, delighting the capacity crowd this brisk February Friday evening (2/25/05). Looking out through the picture windows of the club, you could see the huge white moon rising over Central Park with the vibrant saffron-colored art project, The Gates, shifting in the wind. Cool, hip jazz and a beautiful backdrop. A nice way to spend a couple of hours. The Jim Hall Quartet with Greg Osby brought their silky, restrained, yet exciting and unpredictable sound to the bandstand of Dizzy's Club Coca-Cola, part of Jazz at Lincoln Center's new homeFrederick P. Rose Halllocated on Broadway at 60th Street, 5th floor. (www.jalc.org) Hall was leading this quartet, also featuring Steve Laspina on bass and Ken Wollesen on drums, in performances of music from his latest recording, Magic Meeting (exclusively available on ArtistShare). Club Artistic Manager Todd Barkan told me they brought this group in with a vision of the Paul Desmond aura. Alto saxophonist Greg Osby was brilliant accompanying Hall's classic smooth style, a lightly amplified sound...wispy and full of wisdom. The elder artist chooses his notes with simple genius. Osby demonstrates his great playing that seems to get better in leaps and bounds as the years progress. (He commented that the room took some getting used to, as most jazz clubs' acoustics are not so good. He was well pleased with the acoustics at Dizzy's Club Coca-Cola.) The rhythm section proved more than capable as bassist LaSpina provided a strong foundation, while drummer Wollesen lightly patted on the skins with his bare palms at times. Great group.
Hall joked with the audience and entertained us with classics like "Skylark'? and "All The Things You Are,'? which he introduced as his wife's favorite. He occasionally made use of effects pedals for his guitar, like an octive-sfx that brought a single string note to expanded dimensions. The master and his buddies closed with Sonny Rollins' "St. Thomas.'?
Some years ago, Guitar Player magazine quoted Jim as saying "I do feel good about my playing. The instrument keeps me humble. Sometimes I pick it up and it seems to say `No, you can't play today.' I keep at it anyway though." Jim and his wife, Jane, who is both a psychoanalyst and a songwriter, live in New York City's Greenwich Village with their dog, Django.
I went back to say "hi" to Jim after the show with my brother, trumpeter Chris Thompson. Hall was a refreshingly positive-vibed human being. You could just feel it in his handshake and smile. Gifted, truly gifted. An honor to meet here at Dizzy's Club Coca-Cola, a club named with the spirit of Dizzy in mind.
Jim Hall remembers the Diz. "I was playing in the band on the Merv Griffin show. Bassist Art Davis was in the band as well. Merv had Dizzy as a guest on the show one night, and we never got to have a single rehearsal! Well, Art knew Dizzy well, we all knew him. Everyone knew Dizzy. So Dizzy comes over to the band, on the show, and says, "I want you to play three chords behind me, hold them, and I'll play over them. " He said for us to play any note we wanted and then he just signaled us to come in on the downbeat. He did this three times for the three chords and we ended up playing these crazy sounding chords behind him because everyone was playing anything we wanted like Dizzy said to do. Well it worked out beautifully, it sounded great! We all loved Dizzy. I never heard anyone utter a bad word about him.'?