Three From Rhapsody Films featuring Bill Evans and Jim Hall
Senior Editor since 2004With the realization that there will always be more music coming at him than he can keep up with, John wonders why anyone would think that jazz is dead or dying.
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That Hall, in the latter stages of his life, has created some of his most challenging and, ultimately, enduring work is a testimony to the concept that true artists have the humility to realize there is always somewhere new to go, something new to learn. While Hall, in his early days, was thought of more as a guitarist, his work of the past ten years establishes him firmly as a composer/arranger, no surprise considering he had a solid musical education before setting forth to immerse himself in the jazz idiom. While, at the age of 74, one hopes that he still has many more years ahead of him, he has already accomplished more than most, in terms of being a compleat musician.
The documentary features fascinating footage of the recording process, with artists including Greg Osby, Joe Lovano, Terry Clarke, Tom Harrell and, of course, Pat Metheny, whose lineage to Hall is firmly established while, at the same time, demonstrating the same kind of creative drive to move the instrument and art forward in a highly personal way. Watching how Hall chooses, for example, to blend violas and celli into a darker texture than normally encountered in "with strings" projects, demonstrates just how unique Hall's conception is.
Interviews with Nat Hentoff, John Lewis and Chico Hamilton help paint a portrait of Hall as an unassuming man who is sure-footed in his conception, committed to his craft, yet humble enough to recognize the confluence of good fortune and talent that brings him to where he is today. Archival footage of Hall playing with Sonny Rollins, Chico Hamilton and Jimmy Giuffre show that, while Hall's talents have obviously evolved over the years, his personal vision was clear from the very earliest days.
What is, perhaps, most remarkable about the documentary is how virtually everyone interviewed sees Hall as a major innovator in modern jazz. This quiet, charming and wryly humorous man, through a life of dedication and constant work, has moved the art forward with subtlety and a complete lack of drama. An engaging person, Hall demonstrates that you don't have to be a "personality" to have personality, both as a human being and as an artist. Without any of the melodrama that has peppered the lives of many of the artists he grew up around, Hall has simply emerged without fanfare as arguably the most broadly influential guitarist of the past fifty years. A Life in Progress , with the same kind of honesty and lack of pretension that describes the man, paints a portrait of an artist whose contribution to music will be considered alongside the innovations of Evans, Davis and Coltrane.