Thursday, April 20, 2006

A chat in the Hall

As I guy who will extol the virtues of Sonny Rollins ad nauseam to any poor sucker who will listen, one of my hobbies is reflecting on the players I think were perfect compliments to Mr. Rollins, like Max Roach on drums, Oscar Pettiford on upright bass, Bob Cranshaw on electric bass and Rufus Harley on bagpipes. (OK, Rufus is the ONLY bagpiper Sonny Rollins recorded with to my knowledge, but he was still darn complimentary.)

In my view, some of the best stuff the great tenor saxophonist has done (and I should know because I have bought about all of it) was with guitarist Jim Hall, which I also think says a lot about Jim Hall, because it's no mean feat to hang musically with Sonny Rollins, especially Sonny Rollins in the '60s hot off one of his celebrated sabbaticals to rejuvenate and scout out new musical paths to tread.

This inclined me to buy Hall's "Dialogues," Telarc, when I saw it last weekend for the great price of $10.99, not to mention the lineup Hall is dialoguing with, Bill Frisell and Mike Stern, two of my favorite modern jazz electric guitarists, ace saxophonist Joe Lovano, trumpeter Tom Harrell and Gill Goldenstein, normally a pianist who in this case plays the accordion, which he'd started noodling with again in a nod to his youth. Hall went so far as to compose all but one of the songs specially for his guests and the result is wonderful. (Hoagy Carmichael's "Skylark" is the exception, and that's OK, because he and Harrell destandardize it.) The two Stern pieces (Hall does two with everybody) are highlights, especially "Uncle Ed," and the accordion duets are fun. "Calypso Joe" gives Lovano a chance to play Mr. Rollins ala "St. Thomas."

I'd consume Rollins' "The Bridge," Hall's "Concierto" and his "Alone Together" duets with bass legend Ron Carter first, but "Dialogues" is a nice Camembert for a cheese course, and all my friends know I've got a soft spot for a nice Camembert.

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