JazzTimes magazine is reporting that the deeply influential and malleable jazz guitarist Jim Hall died this morning at the age of 83; no further details are available at this time. Hall played with a deceptively quiet, clean tone, but beyond that sound he was a serious explorer and chance taker, a musician of exquisite taste, melodic invention, and technical skill with an abiding sense of curiosity and openness. Although he was never really considered an avant-gardist, he proved an effective collaborator for some of jazz’s most devoted innovators: Ornette Coleman, Jimmy Giuffre, John Lewis, Chico Hamilton, Paul Desmond, Art Farmer, Gunther Schuller, Lee Konitz, Bill Evans, Sonny Rollins, Bill Frisell, and Pat Metheny, among others.
Hall continued performing right up until the end: he played at this year’s Newport Jazz Festival in August with fellow guitarist Julian Lage. He didn’t make a ton of records under his own name, but his ubiquity and range, in addition to his flexibility, long ago solidified his legacy. Aside from his clean sound and his melodic generosity, I always think of Hall’s masterful accompaniment—playing the most gorgeous, spot-on chords behind a veritable who’s who of strong-willed improvisers. He didn’t need to impose his will, as others sought him out partly for his ability to listen and adapt—but he always made his mark. Still, nothing I could write can convey the beauty, empathy, and invention of his actual playing, so below are a handful of clips featuring some of his most important collaborators.
Mats Gustafsson/Paal Nilssen-Love/Mesele Asmamaw, Baro 101 (Terp)
Nate Young Regression, Vol. 3: Other Days (Rockatansky)
Benjamin Schweitzer, Kammermusik (Wergo)
Warren Zevon, Warren Zevon (Asylum/Rhino)
Bassekou Kouyate & Ngoni Ba, Jama Ko (Out Here)