Thursday, December 4, 2014

Jim Hall - Concierto

Guitarist Jim Hall is the sort of musician who displays such technical expertise, imaginative conception, and elegance of line and phrase that almost any recording of his is worth hearing. Still, Concierto ranks among the best albums of his superb catalog. For starters, the personnel here is a jazz lover's dream come true. Paul Desmond (saxophone), Chet Baker (trumpet), Roland Hanna (piano), Ron Carter (bass), and Steve Gadd (drums) are on board, creating -- along with Hall -- one of the highest profile lineups ever put to tape. Yet Concierto is not about star power and showboating. As subtle, nuanced, and considered as any of Hall's output, the ensemble playing here demonstrates great group sensitivity and interplay, giving precedence to mood and atmosphere over powerhouse soloing. Conductor and arranger Don Sebesky evinces a chamber ambience from the sextet on "You'd Be So Nice to Come Home To," the smoky "The Answer Is Yes," and the Hall centerpiece "Concierto de Aranjuez." - by Anthony Tognazzini, AMG

Amongst the many CTI classics of the 1970s, few stand the test of time as well as guitarist Jim Hall's Concierto, an ambitious album that, in its original form, married one side of modern mainstream with a second taken up by a 19-minute version of Joaquin Rodrigo's 1939 piece for classical guitar and orchestra, "Concierto de Aranjuez." That Miles Davis and Gil Evans already delivered what was considered the definitive jazz adaptation on the trumpeter's 1960 classic, Sketches of Spain (Columbia), and that pianist Chick Corea had grabbed parts as the intro to his now-classic "Spain," were clearly no deterrents to Hall, or to arranger Don Sebesky, who—sticking with this minimalist quintet/sextet rather than the overblown orchestras he'd sometimes resort to on other CTI titles—delivers one of the best charts of his career. Sebesky perfectly balances the innate economy and astute improvisation acumen of Hall's group with written scores that maximize the beauty of space and nuanced understatement. Trumpeter Chet Baker is in terrific form here, in the midst of a relatively brief cleanup period from heroin and with two strong CTI recordings from the previous year—his own She Was Too Good to Me (reissued in 2010 by CTI Masterworks) and Carnegie Hall Concert, with baritone saxophonist Gerry Mulligan sax, baritone  and a crack band that includes drummer Harvey Mason, and a young John Scofield on guitar. Paul Desmond is also in great shape, interacting particularly empathically with Baker on the swinging opener, "You Be So Nice To Come Home To," before the trumpeter takes over with a solo of surprising fire and even occasional grit. As is the case on the lion's share of CTI recordings, bassist Ron Carter stokes the engine room— this time with drummer Steve Gadd—demonstrating his remarkable versatility. Hall's career has been founded on a thoughtful and restrained economy that's made every note, every voicing, count. What's most remarkable about his playing here is how perfect his choices still are, nearly 40 years later. It's often easy to look back and reassess performances for what they might have been, but there's absolutely nothing here that could (or should) be changed; pianist Roland Hanna also plays with a combination of melodic invention and Spartan lyricism on the two versions of "You'd Be So Nice," including a bonus alternate that, taken at an ever-so-slightly-slower tempo, breathes a tad more than the album version; though, with slightly softer edges, it's easy to see why Hall and producer Creed Taylor made the choice they did. With its reading of "Concierto de Aranjuez" standing easily beside the Davis/Evans version on Sketches of Spain, Concierto deserves to be considered an equal classic, and a masterpiece in its own right—proof that music can be deep, modern, timeless and accessible. - by John Kelman, AllAboutJazz.com

Artist: Jim Hall
Album: Concierto
Year: 1975
Label: CTI
Runtime: 37:55

Tracks:
1.  You'd Be So Nice To Come Home (Cole Porter) 7:06
2.  Two's Blues (Jim Hall)  3:52
3.  The Answer Is Yes (Jim Hall)  7:41
4.  Concierto de Aranjuez (Joaquín Rodrigo) 19:16

Personnel:
Jim Hall (Guitar)
Roland Hanna (Piano)
Ron Carter (Double Bass)
Steve Gadd (Drums)
Chet Baker (Trumpet)
Paul Desmond (Alto Saxophone)

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