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The music of the world is his passion. The guitar/bass/drum trio is his setting of choice. And though he’s spanned the continents on tours with legends like Ella Fitzgerald and Sonny Rollins, he remains a mild-mannered, down to earth man whose music reveals a deep sense of care and touches the innermost, sentimental emotions. On Friday, January 11, The Jim Hall Trio, featuring Scott Colley on bass and Terry Clarke on drums, added warmth to the stark elegance of Birdland in New York that matched the glow of the candlelight. The chemistry between the musicians flowed like water. It was as if three elements came together to form the most perfect ionic bond, creating a substance essential to life. The trio produced tremendously evocative sounds that took the audience on a sentimental journey into the core of emotion. On Billie Holiday’s "Don’t Explain," Hall and Colley seemed to weep together. The solemn sounds they created merged to evoke the heavy emotion of Lady Day’s voice. "All the Things You Are" ended in a softly fading mixture of bass and guitar that touched the very soul and sent chills through the bloodstream. Jim Hall threw his heart into every single note he played. He gave them their own individual character. Becoming personified, they seemed to flow out smiling, and you got the feeling they were proud to have been created by the hands of such a master.
Scott Colley played bass with the grace of a ballet dancer. As a dancer leaps gallantly into the air and lands with out a sound, Colley’s hand moved up and down his instrument and landed for a beat. The moment filled with a soft, pure sound that rivaled the intimacy of silence.
Terry Clarke created a plethora of sounds with brushes and mallets. He began Joe Lovano’s "Blackwell’s Message" with an outburst of percussion. Hall grabbed hold of Clarke’s strong sound and pulled outward from it until the guitar grew into its own entity spawned from the drums.
On Hoagie Carmichael’s "Skylark," the trio created a mass of gentle, beautiful sound that made you want to cry, or dance softly with a porcelain-skinned beauty in the moonlight.
The set ended with "Say Hello to Calypso," dedicated to Sonny Rollins. Hall’s guitar took on the tone of a steel drum. Clarke kept the sound rolling with a driving beat. And the extraordinarily moving set that began with the grace and silence of falling tears, took the audience on an expedition through sound, until finally evolving into a cheerful, island tune. The Jim Hall Trio moved us to tears, but we left smiling.
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.