jim hall

Guitar Techniques - - LESSON JAZZ -

James Stan­ley Hall was born in New York in 1930 and first picked up the gui­tar aged 10. He be­gan per­form­ing pro­fes­sion­ally in his teens and stud­ied mu­sic the­ory and pi­ano at the Cleve­land In­sti­tute of Mu­sic. Ini­tially in­flu­enced by Benny Good­man’s gui­tarist, Char­lie Chris­tian, young Hall was also in­ter­ested in as­sim­i­lat­ing the legato sound of sax­o­phon­ists such as Cole­man Hawkins and Lester Young, along with study­ing clas­si­cal gui­tar with Vin­cente Gomez. His unique ap­proach, with ex­quis­ite taste, touch and so­phis­ti­ca­tion soon brought him to the at­ten­tion of the jazz com­mu­nity and his ca­reer be­gan to gather mo­men­tum.

Hall’s first break was land­ing the gig with drum­mer Chico Hamilton. This led to the re­lease of his de­but solo al­bum in 1957, en­ti­tled sim­ply Jazz Gui­tar. Tour­ing and recording dates fol­lowed with Ella Fitzger­ald, Ben Web­ster, Bill Evans, Jimmy Gi­uf­fre, Paul Des­mond, Sonny Rollins and a host of oth­ers. Jim bal­anced this with his solo work, band lead­ing and a stint in the house band on the tele­vi­sion pro­gram, The Merv Grif­fin Show.

Hall’s ca­reer went from strength to strength but he achieved even greater sta­tus later in his life due to his col­lab­o­ra­tions with a younger gen­er­a­tion of play­ers, all of whom ex­pressed their grat­i­tude and ad­mi­ra­tion for Hall’s ground-break­ing gui­tar style. Th­ese in­cluded Pat Metheny, John Aber­crom­bie, Mike Stern, Bill Frisell and John Scofield, lit­er­ally a Who’s Who of con­tem­po­rary jazz gui­tar. Hall’s cross-gen­er­a­tional in­flu­ence can be felt to the present with new kids on the block such as Ju­lian Lage, Lage Lund and Kurt Rosen­winkel openly singing his praises.

Jim’s play­ing had in­tel­li­gence, beauty and grace. It has been said by some that his play­ing was a tes­ta­ment to what you could achieve with­out ad­vanced tech­nique if your ideas were strong enough and your con­cep­tual ap­proaches out­weighed this per­ceived deficit. The truth is, how­ever, that Hall had fan­tas­tic tech­nique, with a won­der­fully fluid de­liv­ery and ar­tic­u­la­tion. Yes, there were spa­ces in his play­ing, but th­ese rests were there purely to serve the mu­sic, punc­tu­at­ing his ideas and his play­ing sounded all the bet­ter for it.

De­vel­op­ing mo­ti­fis was a huge part of Jim’s play­ing and is ev­i­dent in our ex­am­ples. Once you’ve learnt them as writ­ten, you could take any three- of four-note idea, and then ma­nip­u­late it to fit against all of the har­monic changes. You can make a huge mu­si­cal im­pact just by changing a note or two, so let cu­rios­ity raise the ques­tions and al­low your prac­tice to pro­vide you with the an­swers.

Pat metheny, john aber­crom­bie, bill Frisell, mike stern and john scoField have all ex­Pressed ad­mi­ra­tion For hall

Jim Hall: one of jazz’s most taste­ful play­ers

Blessed with in­tel­li­gence, beauty and grace, Jim Hall’s in­flu­ence has crossed gen­er­a­tions, John

Wheatcroft looks at a truly unique mu­si­cian.

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