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Around five years ago fellow guitarist Pat Martino cut an album with fellow guitar players of differing styles. Now master guitarist Jim Hall, is walking down a similar path, only with a gaggle of highly accomplished bass players representing somewhat, but not completely, different artistic profiles. Dave Holland has been on the cutting edge of jazz, a leading member of the avant-garde. Christian McBride is the youngest member while Charlie Haden is a veteran having participated in those revolutionary double quartet recordings with Ornette Coleman. Haden can also go middle of the road as he has shown with his Quartet West. George Mraz comes from the mainstream. Mraz teams up with fellow bassist Scott Colley for the rare trio combination of two basses and guitar. Seven of the 13 tracks have Hall working with the tandem of Mraz and Colley or one of them individually.
The play list has ten originals composed by the participants and three standards. Given the nature of the instruments, much of the session can be classified as chamber jazz, with a lived in feeling, especially on the "Abstract" quartet. Brightness breaks through on "Bent Blue" where Hall goes electric, but not so loud that one misses McBride's happy, bouncing bass. Hall plays rhythm while Charlie Haden wanders around the melody line on "Don't Explain" then turns up the amps as he and Haden reverse rolls. Colley's approach to "Besame Mucho" is to allow a lot of breathing space creating a contrast with Hall's medium tempo pace.
The virtuosity present on this album is so great as to be awesome. But as mesmerizing as it is, from time to time one wishes that there were a little more instrumental variety present, such as a piano or a horn. But one can't get greedy and must take genius where one finds it. Recommended, of course.
Track Listing: Jim Hall - Guitar on all cuts. End the Beguine with Dave Holland; Bent Blue with Christian McBride; Abstract 1 with Charlie Haden; All the Things You Are with George Mraz; Abstract 2 with Scott Colley/George Mraz; Sam Jones with Dave Holland; Don't Explain with Charlie Haden; Dog Walk with Christian McBride; Abstract 3 with Scott Colley/George Mraz; Besame Mucho with Scott Colley; Dream Steps with Scott Colley; Abstract 4 with Scott Colley; Tango Loco with Scott Colley/George Mraz
Years ago now--in Rhodesia--listening to Voice of America with Willis Conover I heard Bunk Johnson play When The Saints Go Marching In, and Billie Holiday sing Don't Explain. I knew then there was no other life for me than jazz.