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All About Jazz Reader Q&A: Jim Hall

By Published: March 16, 2009
JH: Limited-time practice can be very fruitful just because you're forced to concentrate and get to the essence of what you want or need (my time for answering these questions is limited so I'm trying to be concise and accurate and meet my deadline). Maybe this period can become one of tremendous insight and growth for you.

From: Drew A.G. Engman
Hi again Jim, Do you have any guitar books out? Are there any instruction method books or theory books relating to guitar technique that you would recommend?

JH: Please refer to the George Van Eps question (#11) and may I also suggest that any good music theory, harmony or counterpoint book can help one's guitar playing just because it helps one to grow as a musician.

From: Erik Swanson
Jim, I'm a young guitarist and your early playing with Sonny Rollins, Bill Evans, Paul Desmond, and Jimmy Guiffre changed my thinking that the guitar was inferior to the piano in this music (especially for comping). My question is - what would you say is the one most important quality for any jazz instrumentalist to have or to develop or concentrate on?

JH: In general, I would say that being open and allowing one's self to grow musically are essential. In a playing situation—no matter what it is—listening and reacting appropriately make all the difference (it may also help you keep your job!) I consider these qualities to be more important than technical virtuosity, both for myself and those I choose to perform with.

From: Jim Santella
You, Ron Carter, and Lee Konitz composed the score for the 1971 film Desperate Characters. Was it easy to make all the pieces fit together, or did you find that kind of work a challenge?

JH: As I remember, our "film scoring" was fairly easy to do. We just played some stuff which vaguely matched the various scenes. It wasn't serious underscoring which involves precise timing, split-second sound effects, etc., and can be at times extremely difficult and frustrating, especially since your musical decisions are often overruled by people who produce the film (and who may have questionable musical taste).

From: Jason Bucklin

Many years ago a friend gave me a cassette copy of It's Nice To Be With You. Although I've loved all of your recordings, this one stands out as one of my all time favorite jazz recordings. Every tune seems to transport me to someplace really nice—especially "Body and Soul." Sadly I've lost the cassette and can't find a copy of it anywhere. Is it out of print? Also I've always wondered what was going on in your life during that time that you recorded that album. I can almost tell by what the music is communicating. Throughout my career as a jazz guitarist I've had a few people tell me I remind them of Jim Hall. I consider that the highest compliment.

JH: It's Nice To Be With You is available on CD now, although I don't know where. My daughter, Devra, is on the cover with me. She, my wife Jane, and Devra's friend Daisy were all with me on this performing trips through Europe. In each city I'd meet a new rhythm section, rehearse and do a concert. In Berlin it was my good fortune to team-up with Daniel Humair, whom I knew slightly and Jimmy Woode, whom I'd known since the Duke Ellington days, even though we never toured together. What fun! We're glad you enjoyed the result

From: Michael Ricci

Tell us a little about your latest Telarc release, By Arrangement.

By Arrangement JH: The new CD, By Arrangement, is, in a sense, a continuation of the Textures album with this difference: Textures is all original, new music, while By Arrangement is—as you might expect—a collection of my treatments of jazz tunes.

Waltz for Debby and The Wind include the New York Voices (a fresh direction for me) and I've also included two new pieces of my own (October Song and Art Song).

I wanted to do a tribute to composers I know (or knew) and it was great fun working on Django by John Lewis, Whisper Not by Benny Golson, and The Wind by Russ Freeman. Paul Desmond, Thelonius Monk, Bill Evans and Gordon Jenkins are also represented. These composers are all great melodists and it was a challenge to present their music in an original way.

As with the Textures CD, I also invited some incredible soloists—Pat Metheny, Joe Lovano, Tom Harrell, Greg Osby, Marcus Rojaz, and Jim Pugh—plus a great string section (violas and celli)—a marvelous brass group—The New York Voices, and my steady cohorts, Terry Clark and Scott Colley.

Variety is important to me as I get bored easily and I find different textures interesting—for instance, Joe Lovano plays both clarinet and soprano sax on Goodbye. Adding the shout to Whisper Not was also fun.

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