James Stanley Hall (born December 4, 1930, Buffalo, New York) is an American jazz guitarist, composer and arranger. Jim Hall was born in Buffalo, New York, before moving to Ohio. At home, his family was musical. His mother played the piano, his grandfather violin, and his uncle guitar. He began playing the guitar at age ten when his mother gave him one for Christmas. As a teenager in Cleveland, he performed professionally. He also took up the double bass. In 1955, Hall attended the Cleveland Institute of Music where he studied piano and bass, in addition to theory. About a year later, Hall moved to Los Angeles, where cool jazz was prominent at the time. He focused on classical guitar, and, from 1955 to 1956, played in Chico Hamilton’s quintet. It was here that he began to gain fame. In the Jimmy Giuffre Three, Jim developed some of his own personal musical preferences, including “challenging arrangements and interactive improvisation in duos and trios.” From this time on, Hall’s career picked up. He taught at the Lenox School of Jazz in 1959; toured with Jazz at the Philharmonic; and worked with Ben Webster (1959), Bill Evans (1959), Paul Desmond (1959-65), Ella Fitzgerald in Europe (1960), Lee Konitz (1960-61), Sonny Rollins (1961-2, 1964), and Art Farmer (1962-1964). Working with all of these prominent and established artists furthered Jim Hall’s career and aided in producing his own bands and own styles. By 1960, Hall was living in New York. In 1962, he led a trio with Tommy Flanagan and Ron Carter--with the addition of Red Mitchell in 1965. Furthermore, he landed a gig playing with Bill Berry, Bob Brookmeyer, Benny Powell, Art Davis and Jake Hanna as a house band for “The Merv Griffin Show” on television. Most notably, he arranged and recorded many duos with Bill Evans and Ron Carter, which allowed his complex arrangements and improvisations to shine. Jim Hall had incredible improvisational ability and creativity. He was an arranger as much as an artist, known for developing motives and using blues inflections. These characteristics are showcased in his 1975 album “Jim Hall Live!", with Don Thompson and Terry Clarke. Around this time he also recorded with pianist George Shearing and classical violinist Itzhak Perlman. He further continued creating music with Mitchell and Ron Carter until 1985. In the 1990s, Hall continued to tour and record all over the world. His sidemen included drummers Billy Stewart and Andy Watson, Steve LaSpina, bass players Scott Colley and Gil Goldstein from 1985-93 and keyboardist Larry Goldings. At times, Hall included Chris Potter on the tenor saxophone. These players are featured on Hall’s video Master Sessions with Jim Hall from 1993. Hall has appeared as a guest soloist in Michel Petrucciani’s trio with Wayne Shorter in 1986 and performed at the Village Vanguard with Bill Frisell. In 1990, he hosted the JVC Jazz Festival New York, which also featured Pat Metheny and John Scofield. After this, he played a number of duo concerts with Pat Metheny. In 1994, Hall recorded a completely solo album. Furthermore, in 1996, he returned to Europe to lead a quartet with Joe Lovano. In 1997, Hall received the New York Jazz Critics Award for Best Jazz Composer/Arranger, which was a very important milestone in his career. His pieces for string, brass, and vocal ensembles can be heard on his Textures and By Arrangement recordings. His original composition, Quartet Plus Four, a piece for jazz quartet featuring the Zapolski string quartet, was debuted in Denmark, where he was awarded the coveted Jazzpar Prize. His most recent orchestral composition was a concerto for guitar and orchestra, commissioned by Towson University in Maryland for The First World Guitar Congress, which was debuted in June 2004 with the Baltimore Symphony. He was awarded an NEA Jazz Masters Fellowship award in January 2004. Hall was one of the first artists to join the fan-funded label ArtistShare and released "Magic Meeting" in 2005. In November 2008 the double album Hemispheres was released through the ArtistShare label, featuring fellow guitarist and former student Bill Frisell with Scott Colley (bass) and Joey Baron (drums). Hall continues to perform today, participating in a project titled The Live Project. Here he shares his music making process through ArtistShare as well as interviews with other musicians about his lasting influence. In 2010, Hall and Joey Baron recorded a duo album, which listeners can get an exclusive view on the recording “coming to life." In 2012 at the age of 81, Hall has gigs at the Blue Note in New York City and at a number of jazz festivals in the states as well as in Europe.
The history of the JAZZPAR AWARDS constitutes, in retrospect, a significant development in the recognition of jazz by international arbiters of taste, and by distributors of monetary recognition.
When the late guitarist and composer Jim Hall emerged triumphant in 1998, it was because his name evoked the most unanimous praise, out of the dozens of artists who had come up for discussion. Already at that point, his career had covered more than 40 years and evoked past associations with people such as Chico Hamilton, Jimmy Giuffre, Sonny Rollins and Art Farmer, plus the fact that they had some of their most interesting and unusual groups when Jim Hall happened to be in them. Some of his other frequent but less regular collaborators, like Paul Desmond, Gerry Mulligan, Bill Evans or Ron Carter, also clearly chose him for the stimulation to be gained from the experience. What these great artists (and many more) found in Hall was a player of great sensitivity and intelligence, to whom the idea of cooperation was second nature but whose approach was completely individual. This duality is not unique within a jazz framework, but the truth is that many jazz players do not manage to be simultaneously identifiable and compatible with others. Personality is obviously the key factor, and Jim’s can perhaps be described as confident but self-effacing. Musically, that translated into a style which was both cogent and laconic – which makes a lot of sense but not a lot of noise – and it’s this combination that lends itself to taking on board others’ ideas and complementing rather than contradicting them. In band terms, it bestows the possibility of being a leader through example, without being either too malleable or too dictatorial.
No wonder, then, that less well-known musicians were more than happy to be associated with Hall, and those who worked with him in Denmark are excellent examples. Chris Potter (born January 1 1971) was then another promising newcomer, who himself won the JAZZPAR prize in 2000 and is now regarded as a leading saxophonist of his generation. The Canadian drummer Terry Clarke (born August 20 1944), then based in New York, had played and toured with Hall since at least 1975, when he made the first of several albums with him. The bassist on the Danish tour was the latest in a long line of local virtuosi, Thomas Ovesen (who shared Jim Hall’s birthday, December 4, Ovesen being born in 1965 and Hall in 1930).
As is usually the case with JAZZPAR tours, there was more than one Danish musician involved but, unusually, at Jim’s request the others were a string quartet, formed of members of the Radio Symphony Orchestra and led by Russian violinist Alexander Zapolski. This combination of talents enabled Hall to pursue aims which were present throughout his career. He had made a notable re-examination of the dialogue between the needs of composition and improvisation in his recent albums, especially with ensembles differing from the conventional trio and quartet line-ups constituting the majority of Jim’s output in earlier decades. Although he recorded duos of guitar-and-piano as early as 1962 (with Bill Evans) and, in 1976, duos of guitar-andvoice (with his wife Jan) and guitar-and-drums (with Terry Clarke), nevertheless in the 1990s he had created carefully chosen chamber groups with, for instance, a couple of string players or a handful of brassmen, often with no drums or with drums but no bass. That kind of freedom is clearly evident here, for instance in the interplay with Clarke during “Stella By Starlight”, and with Potter towards the end of “Chelsea Bridge” (where Potter picks up Jim’s earlier quotation from “Rockin’ In Rhythm”) and in the duet encore on “In A Sentimental Mood”.
The compositional element, and the continuity of Hall’s career, is brought into focus by the two pieces with strings and the fact (somehow emphasized by the omission of one other octet track, for lack of space) that they were written 45 years apart. If these seem more concentrated and more ‘serious’ than the earlier part of the program, that feeling is deliberately undermined by the first encore, Zapolski’s arrangement of “Purple Haze” by Jimi Hendrix, the guitarist who 30 years ago threatened to blow away all the subtleties personified by Hall. Jim may have the same initials as Hendrix but, hearing him use an octave pedal and then de-tune his A-string while sounding all the while exactly like Jim Hall, you can see another example of self-effacing confidence.