Since the 1960s there have been four names regarded as the greatest icons of jazz guitar. Wes Montgomery, Joe Pass, Jim Hall and Kenny Burrell. Now only Kenny Burrell remains.
Jim Hall was certainly the most modern sounding of the four. In fact, he pretty much invented the modernist use of fourths which so many guitarists have since emulated and in the utilization of space in his playing. His most iconic collaborators were the pianist Bill Evans and the alto saxophonist Paul Desmond and his longtime partnerships with both of those immortals resulted in some of the most sublime jazz ever recorded.
And to add just some personal weird timing. Just last night I realized I needed to start reading through some music and pulled out some Jim Hall books. In them I found a color copy of a photograph of a transcribed solo of Jim Hall’s, from the song Indian Summer, off the album Walk Soft, that Eric Susoeff, a great jazz guitarist in Pittsburgh, had made for me over 30 years ago. I’d seen it maybe twice in all those years and I put it down on the table and was struggling to see the tiny notes in the dim light. Just last night. And now today I find out Jim Hall has passed.
There’s nothing on the New York Times yet it was actually Eric posting of Jim’s death on Facebook that delivered the sad news to me.
I’ll post some great musical art and enlighten anyone who hasn’t experienced this great 20th century giant of jazz. And he was a giant of jazz, the music. Not simply some guitar hero. These four musicians were jazz artists first and guitarists second. Anyway. That’s that.
Here’s a very long clip on YouTube of Jim Hall with another of my favorites, Art Farmer, from 1964.