Born: December 4, 1930 | Died: December 10, 2013 Primary Instrument: Guitar
Jim Hall, born in Buffalo, and educated at the Cleveland Institute of Music, moved to Los Angeles where he began to attract national, and then international, attention in the late 1950s. By 1960 Jim had arrived in New York to work with Sonny Rollins and Art Farmer, among others. His live and recorded collaborations with Bill Evans, Paul Desmond, and Ron Carter, are legendary.
Not only is Jim Hall one of the jazz world's favorite guitarists, but he has also earned critical acclaim for his skills as a composer and arranger. The first formal recognition came in 1997, when Jim won the New York Jazz Critics Circle Award for Best Jazz Composer/Arranger. His pieces for string, brass, and vocal ensembles can be heard on his Textures and By Arrangement recordings. His original composition, Quartet Plus Four, a piece for jazz quartet augmented by the Zapolski string quartet, was debuted in Denmark during the concert and ceremony where he was awarded the coveted Jazzpar Prize, and later released on CD.
His most recent large-scale composition was a concerto for guitar and orchestra, commissioned by Towson University in Maryland for The First World Guitar Congress®, which was debuted in June 2004 with the Baltimore Symphony. The title of the work, “Peace Movement,” is indicative of Jim’s desire to contribute to world peace through his music. He views music as a way of bonding people together and crossing barriers, be they barriers of geography, ideology, religion, or other discriminations. In accepting the NEA Jazz Masters Fellowship award in January 2004, he said, “The women and men who have received this award in the past have spread peace and love throughout the world, something that governments might emulate. I am pleased to be one of the peacemakers.”
In addition to the recent focus on orchestral and choral composition, Jim remains active as a player, working and recording with a variety of ensembles all around the world. In addition to working with his trio, Jim likes to spice up the mix with various guests. From time to time you might hear Joe Lovano, Greg Osby, the New York Voices, Kenny Barron, Pat Metheny, Slide Hampton, and others, working for a night or two with Jim's groups. In fact, several of these guests can be heard on a live recording titled Panorama.” On occasion, these alliances lead to more intensive collaborative projects such as the “Jim Hall & Basses” recording featuring Scott Colley, Charlie Haden, Dave Holland, George Mraz, and Christian McBride, and the duets project with Pat Metheny.
Jim’s latest project, “Magic Meeting,” a CD featuring the Jim Hall Trio with Scott Colley and Lewis Nash, was recorded live at the Village Vanguard in New York City at the end of April 2004. Jim’s new website (www.jimhallmusic.com) enables him to share with his audience a personal view of his creative process, in addition to the finished product. Via the web, audiences can participate, not just by purchasing the new CD, but by ‘being there,’ behind the scenes, so to speak, witnessing Jim prepare for a project, meeting the players, hearing the outtakes, and more.
Some years ago, Guitar Player magazine quoted Jim as saying I do feel good about my playing. The instrument keeps me humble. Sometimes I pick it up and it seems to say `No, you can't play today.' I keep at it anyway though. Jim and his wife, Jane, who is both a psychoanalyst and a songwriter, live in New York City’s Greenwich Village with their dog, Django. This bio was excerpted from “Sketches from PROS Folios: Jim Hall” by Devra Hall, and permission is granted for its use in program books and promotional materials.
...Hall and his colleagues - bassist Scott Colley and drummer Lewis Nash - have developed a level of rapport second to none...The superb interplay made it hard to believe this music was being created on the spot, without the benefit of a written score... the three openly exchanged ideas in one poetic dialogue after another... — Chuck Obuchowski, The Hartford Courant
His intensely intimate music gets under your skin rather than grabbing you by the lapels....Mr. Hall has a sound as recognizable as the voice of a friend. His floating, fine-grained tone is smooth and edgeless, his wide-spaced harmonies subtly oblique. — Terry Teachout, Wall Street Journal
Jim Hall is the reigning master of the jazz guitar. This poetic player says more with fewer notes than any living improviser. — The New Yorker
A master of understatement, Hall is one of jazz's most respected improvisers, an artist who wields his guitar like a paintbrush, shaping and shading each note to achieve just the right hue and texture. Modest and soft-spoken, he has inspired two generations of jazz musicians with his vast harmonic knowledge and restless musical curiosity. — Andrew Gilbert, San Jose Mercury News
His work speaks as much to the human condiction as any artist past or present, and if one looks and listens attentively, there are great rewards to be found there. — Victor Magnani, All About Jazz
Mr. Hall's dry-toned guitar playing with its discrete, deliberate notes and sliding chords works like a bluesy telegraph signal. — Ben Ratliff, The New York Times
Since 1955, Hall, jazz' most lyrical and harmonically fertile guitarist, has jousted with top jazz stars like Ella Fitzgerald and Sonny Rollins. And his approach has shaped a younger generation of guitar heroes, from Metheny to Bill Frisell. — Gene Santoro, New York Daily News