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Darryl Hall: Subtle Touch

AAJ Staff By

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While bassist Darryl Hall is more than a known quantity among the Philadelphia jazz community, he’s starting to record his vision and expand his recognition among the jazz community along the East Coast as well. Winner of the 1995 Thelonious Monk Jazz Competition on bass, Hall’s vision is one that is unlike that of many bassists in his style of composition, his choice of instrumentation and his role as a bassist.

Maybe “Subtle Touch” is the way to describe Hall’s approach. While he’s certainly capable of—and in fact excels in—the expectation of the bassist as time-keeper and the propulsive foundation for a jazz group, Hall seems to prefer an investigation of cultures and an inviting appeal to the listener to consider the thoughts he presents.

Pianist Jim Ridl, who has performed numerous times with Hall and who can metamorphose into a musical tidal wave when the need arises, blends in with the overriding concept of “Subtle Touch” to sensitively accompany and enlarge the harmonic intentions of Hall’s compositions (excluding Oscar Pettiford’s “Tricotism”, on which Ridl lays out).

From the CD’s first track, “In The Near”, the listener knows that Hall is accomplishing a melodic and evocative, albeit unconventional, tunesmithing, as violinist Megumi Okura states the theme in sonorous beauty without embellishment or vibrato. “From The Source”, performed twice including the alternate take, introduces Sam Newsome on soprano sax in a charging improvisation on unpredictable changes. Hall’s “Eine Minute”, perhaps an inside joke, is performed in—yes— exactly one minute, but not as a waltz, a la Chopin. No, Hall has devised a 9/4 tempo in increments of five and four. Don’t ask me how he, Ridl and Hass pull that one off!

The two Hall dedications on the album take quite different directions. His tribute to mentor and inspiration, Gerald Price, “Subtle Touch,” features an emotional outpouring in arco as Ridl and Newsome subtly fill out the heartfelt remembrance of friendships past. Yet, Hall takes the opposite approach in his dedication to Oscar Pettiford, a pizzacato-ed and bass-slapping and loping frolic that sounds nothing like Pettiford’s rendition with Lucky Thompson and yet that remains true to the good-natured temperament of the fraternity of jazz bassists.

Perhaps the most inventive track on the CD is “Calm On The Prairie” involving a musical portrait of Native-American serenity. Newsome amazingly shortens the soprano sax’s tones and abandons overtones to simulate a Native flute while Hall and Hass reduce the rhythm to a profound simplicity. It’s possible that this number may show Ridl’s influence on Hall, as Ridl—a Philadelphia phenomenon, Pat Martino accompanist and native of one the Dakotas (I forget which)—has recorded a few of his own portraits of the West, seemingly influenced by novelist Cormac McCarthy.

With the release of “Subtle Touch”, Hall has chosen a road less taken, and for that reason succeeds as an original voice on the bass whose engaging style puts the listener at ease with assurance and grace.

Track Listing:

In The Near; From The Source; Subtle Touch; Urban Folk Song; Eine Minute; Calm On The Prairie: One Of Us; Tricotism; From The Source

Personnel:

Darryl Hall, bass; Sam Newsome, soprano sax; Megumi Okura, violin; Jim Ridl, piano; Steve Hass, drums

http://www.dreamboxmedia.com

Title: Subtle Touch | Year Released: 2000 | Record Label: Encounter

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