Jim Hall has long been one of the most open-minded of the important stylists to emerge during the 1950s, and his harmonically advanced style remains quite modern while hinting at its foundations in bop. For this Telarc CD, Hall teams up with five major players on two numbers apiece: Guitarists Bill Frisell and Mike Stern, Joe Lovano on tenor, flugelhornist Tom Harrell, and Gil Goldstein on accordion. Bassist Scott Colley and drummer Andy Watson are on the Frisell and Lovano tracks, and part of the Harrell and Stern performances. All of the compositions but "Skylark" are Hall originals and, although they are usually a bit dry, there are some exceptions: "Uncle Ed" and "Frisell Frazzle" are a little nutty. The emphasis throughout is on interplay between the lead voices and advanced improvising. Despite his strong sidemen (Stern and Harrell fare best), Jim Hall ends up as the dominant voice on virtually every selection, making this a set his fans will enjoy. - All Music
I discovered Jim Hall with this record and was instantly seduced. I'd
heard of him as the major guitarist of the 1960s West Coast jazz trend
and didn't think such a legend could sound so modern today. The 10
pieces he wrote for this album are each astutely tailored for the
musician he duets with.
The two pieces with Bill Frisell, whose
playing is so characteristic and personal, make that songwriting
quality clear and are an excellent intro to the album. On "Bon Ami",
Joe Lovano delivers a very sensitive, powerful and moving tenor
saxophone part. "Snowbound" showcases a both eerie and compelling part
by Gil Goldstein ; what is that instrument he's playing, you wonder?
It's a bass accordian (never heard that before) and the strange mode he
plays in adds to the effect. The two pieces with Mike Stern are also
among my favorites. "Uncle Ed", in particular, is a very lively blues,
with excellent support from Andy Watson on drums. The "rivaling" solo
and comp parts by Jim and Mike are incredibly brilliant ; Mike Stern
hits an intense mid-solo of blues-rock-jazz fusion and Jim Hall's
heartful and intense humming in the background while he gives all he
has in each of his notes is deeply moving.
A strong addition to any modern jazz fan's discotheque, I believe.
Jim Hall set up a number of guest artists to play in basically duo
format. Most of the songs have Scott Colley and Andy Watson playing
bass and drums extremely tastefully, but they intentionally stay mostly
in the background. Jim Hall wrote most of the songs, and with "Frisell
Frazzle" he came up with an angular one for Bill Frisell. It's pretty
good, though the next song with Frisell, "Simple Things", is blander.
Joe Lovano plays some hearty tenor sax on "Calypso Joe" and "Bon Ami".
Tom Harrell is in a bit of a Chet Baker mode during "Dream Steps" and
the later "Skylark". Jim Hall gives the rhythm section a break during
his songs with accordianist Gil Goldstein. "Snowbound" and "Dialogue"
are perhaps the most headphoney on the songs - you have to pay attention
to the nuances to get the most out of the songs. The two songs with
Mike Stern, "Stern Stuff" and "Uncle Ed", are the swingingest.
albums with a bunch of featured guest artists can be a mess, but this
one works because Jim Hall coaxes careful, subtle performances out of
everyone (less so for Mike Stern, who livens things up), so the CD
coheres, and doesn't bump along.
This recording features a nice selection of music. The interplay
between Mr. Hall and his guests is very smooth, mellow, and results in
some fine jazz. I'd also recommend, if you can find it, as it is out of
print, his collaboration with Ron Carter. Fine, fine recording.
Down Beat (2/96, p.42) - 4 Stars - Very Good - "...Hall's playing...achieves a high-water mark of musical poetry..."
(2/96, p.77) - "...A clever, open-minded concept resulting in a
stunning sonic watercolor of textures, moods and grooves..."
Voice (1/16/96) - Ranked #11 in the Village Voice's Best Jazz Discs of
'95 - "...The variety grows on you the way all the guests grew on Hall
and vice versa. Not a note is wasted..."
1 Frisell Frazzle 4:47
2 Simple Things 6:26
3 Calypso Joe 5:17
4 Bon Ami 6:37
5 Dream Steps 4:45
6 Snowbound 6:19
7 Stern Stuff 5:12
8 Dialogue 4:34
9 Uncle Ed 5:03
10 Skylark 5:35
Guitar – Jim Hall, Bill Frisell (tracks: 1, 2), Mike Stern (tracks: 7, 9)
Accordion – Gil Goldstein (tracks: 6, 8)
Bass – Scott Colley (tracks: 1 to 4, 7, 10)
Drums – Andy Watson (tracks: 1 to 5, 7, 9, 10)
Flugelhorn – Tom Harrell (tracks: 5, 10)
Tenor Saxophone – Joe Lovano (tracks: 3, 4)
Written-By – Jim Hall (tracks: 1 to 9)
Recorded in Studio A, Power Station, New York City, February 3, 4 & 25, 1995.
Mixed at Ambient Recording Co, Stamford, Connecticut, June 29, 1995.
Mastered at BMG Studios, New York City, July 13, 1995.