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Jazz Legends – Jim Hall (Part Two)

July 6, 2012

One of the things that distinguishes Jim Hall from other jazz guitarists is his originality.

Many guitarists take a lick-based approached to improvisation. Over time they develop a vocabulary of licks – usually gleaned from other players or transcribed from records – and thread them together to create a solo. Some rely heavily on such licks while others will play improvised-on-the-spot melodies perhaps half the time.

Jim Hall does neither. He considers improvising an art form and likens it to painting. As a result he favours motivic development in his solos, meaning that he will improvise a “motive” or musical idea on the spot and then build on it and explore its variations as he develops the solo.  The result: a new canvas each time he sits down to play.

In fact he has only transcribed one or two solos in his entire life and that was many years ago.  When he listens to other players – often horn players – he does so to get the feeling, not to pick up specific phrases or licks. He’s just as likely to get his musical inspiration from other art forms, especially painting and poetry.

You can hear this approach in this wonderful 1981 recording with Don Thompson(piano) and Terry Clarke(drums):

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