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December 20, 2013

TT: When a great jazzman dies

Jolted by the deaths of Jim Hall, Peter O'Toole, and Ray Price--but most especially Hall--I devoted this week's Wall Street Journal "Sightings" column to some thoughts inspired by their passing. Here's an excerpt.

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It was a hectic week for obituary writers. First came the death of the jazz guitarist Jim Hall, followed by Peter O'Toole, the legendary stage and screen actor. Finally--for such reports are famously said to come in groups of three--it was announced that Ray Price, one of country music's most admired singers and bandleaders, had passed away shortly after entering hospice care.

6a00e008dca1f088340120a97267b7970b-350wi.jpgAll three men were still performing long after most of us gladly call it a day. Indeed, Mr. Hall, who died on Dec. 10 at the age of 83, had made his last public appearance just two weeks earlier. As for Mr. O'Toole, he gave a late-life performance in "Venus" striking enough to win him a best-actor Oscar nomination in 2007. In that same year, Mr. Price went out on tour with Merle Haggard and Willie Nelson, and so impressed his colleagues that Mr. Haggard praised him as follows to a reporter for Rolling Stone: "I told Willie when it was over, 'That old man gave us a goddamn singing lesson.' He really did."

It's always hard to say goodbye to an artist who has had a long, productive career, but I found Mr. Hall's death to be especially painful, not only because of the exquisitely delicate lyricism of his playing but also because he was so fine a man. I knew him a bit, well enough to say hello after a gig, and I knew dozens of musicians who worked with him and esteemed him without limit. None of them ever had a bad word to say about him, at least not in my hearing....

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Read the whole thing here.

Posted December 20, 2013 12:00 AM

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