The guitarist Jim Hall, a truly great artist and my favorite living jazz musician, has passed away unexpectedly in his sleep. I wrote about him many times, most extensively in this 2003 Wall Street Journal profile occasioned by his having been named an NEA Jazz Master:
Like all great jazz musicians, Mr. Hall has a sound as recognizable as the voice of a friend. His floating, fine-grained tone is smooth and edgeless, his wide-spaced harmonies subtly oblique. A charged hush settles over the noisiest of nightclubs when he plays standard ballads like “All the Things You Are,” sneaking up on their familiar melodies as if to capture them unawares. Yet he is no less happy to jump head first into the deep end of an unpremeditated group improvisation, and the nine superbly varied CDs he has recorded since 1994 for Telarc (he especially likes “Dedications and Inspirations” and “Textures”) suggest that advancing age has made him more daring than ever.
“My playing used to be a little bit conservative, but I think I’ve gained courage,” Mr. Hall explains. “It’s not that I’m playing better. I certainly don’t have more chops. I guess it’s just lack of fear! I just basically don’t give a damn now. I feel I’m OK. Miles Davis was a hero of mine in a lot of ways, and I always figured Miles was kind of like Picasso–he just sort of kept letting himself grow. That’s what I’m trying to do, let myself grow. Sort of like a painter, or a writer. I don’t want to live in the past.”…
This was my favorite of his many unforgettable albums.
My heartfelt condolences to Jane and Devra, his wife and daughter. I cannot imagine a world without him.
UPDATE: Peter Keepnews’ New York Times obituary is here.
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Jim Hall and Scott Colley play a set in 2012 at North Sea Jazz: