It’s an understatement to say that Jim Hall, who turns 82 this year, is the most influential jazz guitarist alive today. Pat Metheny, Bill Frisell, Ed Bickert and many others all put him at the top of their list of influences, and many jazzers, regardless of instrument, see him as an iconic figure in modern jazz. Metheny calls him the “father of the modern jazz guitar.”
These accolades are well deserved. Starting in the late 50s Hall played with the very best including Ben Webster, Bill Evans, Sonny Rollins, Ella Fitzgerald, Paul Desmond, and Art Farmer. His early period includes seminal recordings with Evans (Undercurrent and Intermodulation) and Rollins (The Bridge).
He also has interesting connections with Canada.
When Paul Desmond came to Toronto in the early 70s, Hall recommended that he hire Ed Bickert as his guitarist. Hall had played in Toronto a lot and had gotten to know Bickert well. I’ve never been able to verify this story from a primary source but apparently Hall said to Desmond that Bickert was so good he scared him when he came into the room.
(A side note: the story is believable since Bickert has that kind of reputation amongst guitarists. When I interviewed Pat Metheny for a CBC documentary on him and Linda Manzer, Metheny told me after the interview that he was in complete awe of Bickert and didn’t really understand how he did what he did.)
Carrying on with Hall’s Canadian connections:
He played in a trio with Don Thompson and Terry Clarke and recorded an album with them.
Vancouver (formerly Montreal) guitarist Bill Coon chose studying with Hall over doing a graduate degree.
Mike Rud, another great Canadian guitarist who spent time in Vancouver and Victoria (he’s now in Montreal), also studied with Hall.
There are more connections and more to say but for now I’ll leave you with a recording featuring Hall playing All the Things You Are with Pat Metheny, Chistian McBride and Antonio Sanchez:
Originally from Vancouver, Cole produces ultra-short documentaries featuring players like Montreal trumpeter Kevin Dean (you may recall he was here in Victoria in May with PJ Perry), saxophonist Al McLean, and guitarist Mike Rud (who will be very familiar to Vancouver and Victoria audiences of the past).
Cole’s latest film captures the musical and emotional bond between Kevin Dean and his late father Richard through Dean’s telling of the story of Pops, a jazz ballad he composed for his dad shortly before he died.
Against the backdrop of a lovely rendering of the song in the serene setting of a Montreal church, Dean talks about growing up in a musical family and being inspired by his farmer father who, as a musician (sax and bass), could really “play pretty.”
Although brief, the film takes us right to the heart of their relationship and reveals the deep emotion that often inspires musical creation.
While you are at it, you might want to check out Cole’s other films. The ones I’ve seen are superb. In fact, watching this material has got me thinking – maybe there’s a filmmaker on Vancouver Island who might want to capture some of our own jazz stories?