John Snyder, who produced some of Jim Hall’s best albums, sent a comment on Hall’s passing. It appears with the dozens of other observations sent by readers following the Rifftides remembrance posted on December 10, but the staff decided that the poetic eloquence of Mr. Snyder’s tribute stands on its own. We reproduce it here, followed by a performance from Jim Hall Live, the 1975 Hall trio album with bassist Don Thompson and drummer Terry Clarke recorded at Bourbon Street in Toronto and produced by John Snyder.
Jim left not only music behind when he finished the gig, he left an aesthetic, a “way”, a path. It was the way of the individual heart, of unencumbered truth, of listening and honesty and the responsibilities of self-expression. Even in his absence, his music breathes with life and selflessness, innocence and humor.
Jim had more than ten fingers; it’s just that he just didn’t use them all. He knew that guitar playing often obscured the heart of the player and I think that’s what he meant when he said to his student, “don’t just do something, sit there”. There are fantastic instrumentalists in this world and it has always been thus, but there are only a few whose music and expression transcend the instrument and it becomes transparent, rather like the architectural drawings of a Frank Gehry building. Necessary and important, they and the technique they manifest disappear into the awe we feel inside the aesthetic experience they create.
Jim was kind and funny and he loved irony. He fought with himself and won, he lived his life on his own terms and had no cynicism or bitterness about the music business that provided him with the occasional opportunity to share his music with us. He was always grateful for those opportunities and always made the most out of them. He loved the people he played music with (or had really good stories about them) and he loved the people he played for.
Jim added to this world and to the lives of those his music touched. How will we miss our friend, who will be remembered for as long as there is music? With joy, with thankfulness and smiles on our faces.