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Jim Hall: New Toronto Find

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Jim Hall
In 1975, Jim Hall was in Toronto, Canada, appearing at Bourbon Street—a club opened by Doug Cole in the mid-'50s at 180 Queen St. West. The downtown nightspot routinely showcased American jazz artists—usually backed by local rhythm sections. Jim appeared there in June with bassist Don Thompson and drummer Terry Clarke, and the result was Live! (A&M Horizon), widely considered to be one of Jim's finest live trio dates.

Over the years, most fans assumed that what we heard on that album was it for the club date—five tracks. Now it turns out much more was recorded during Jim's visit. Weeks ago, the playfully titled Jim Hall Live, Vol. 2-4 (ArtistShare), was released—putting the original A&M recording on notice that it was now  Vol. 1. The results are breathtaking and revelatory on every level.

Here's the story from Jim's site...

Live! Vol. 2-4 features previously unreleased recordings from trio performances at Bourbon Street in Toronto, Canada. The recordings provide an additional three hours of music from the original Live! (Horizon) release. Live! Vol 2-4 was released as part of my latest Fan-Funded project. The CD case is a 150 page hardcover book with three audio CDs (and a fourth disc containing 24bit/48k audio files) as well as access to video and print interviews with and commentary by fellow musicians and friends such as Pat Metheny, Wilco guitarist Nels Cline, saxophonist Chris Potter, bassist Scott Colley, and others."

The new boxed set gives us a whopping 21 additional tracks from the live date. This bounty of perfectly executed and recorded jazz is spirited and engrossing, with fidelity that is warm, wide and deep—as if the audience had been invited into a recording studio rather than Jim into a club.The applause and drinks are way off in the distance if heard at all.

For those not in the know, Jim is a jazz guitarist without peer. Starting in 1955, his small-group recordings with Chico Hamilton, Jimmy Giuffre, Bob Brookmeyer, Sonny Rollins, Paul Desmond and Bill Evans are among the finest jazz-delicate recordings in the post-war period. Throughout this roughly 10-year period, Jim was place in virtually every type of musical configuration, all of them exceedingly difficult musically. And yet Jim simplified and seduced with sophisticated voicings and solo lines.

Since the 1960s, Jim has only improved and developed as a solo voice. What always makes Jim special is the humbleness of his aggression. When paired with other jazz greats, Jim is a conversationalist—playing in and out of what they're doing rather than taking his turn. As a leader, he knows how to tickle the ear and satisfy the heart. In fact, the only musician I can think of who's comparable on this bashful-bold level is Bill Evans.

Which brings me to the point of this post. Jim Hall Live, Vol. 2-4 is among the most important archive finds released in recent months. It will remind you of Bill Evans: Live at Art D'Lugoff's Top of the Gate, 1968 (Resonance), released last year.

Jim's perspicacious guitar style and ringing tones encouraged lyrical risk-taking, urging his bandstand colleagues to express their thoughts tenderly and honestly, and gave thinking-feeling audiences a thrill. This is a musical kitchen-table conversation between three great players and the result is jazz at its absolute finest.

JazzWax tracks: You'll find Jim Hall Live, Vol. 2-4 (ArtistShare) at Jim's site here, which links to the shopping cart here. While the box set is pricey ($75), it's worth every dollar, and I guarantee you'll thank me.

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This story appears courtesy of JazzWax by Marc Myers.
Copyright © 2016. All rights reserved.

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