He’s the quiet guitarist that the very best jazz guitarists in the world from Jim Hall to Pat Metheny are in awe of to this day. Although he became a fixture on the Toronto scene starting in the 1950s, like so many Toronto jazz greats, he’s actually from the west, born near Winnipeg and raised in Vernon, where he first picked up a guitar at age 8. Sadly he no longer performs, but we can still enjoy his timeless, tasteful, amazing playing through his recordings and the magic of YouTube. Here he is from the early years with another BC great – Don Thompson on bass and Claude Ranger on drums. Oh, and here’s a link to a tribute concert recorded earlier this month by the CBC. Happy birthday, Ed.
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: