Jim Hall was one of the most versatile guitarists in jazz. When musicians ranging from Jimmy Giuffre to Sonny Rollins to Art Farmer to Paul Desmond chose guitar over piano, Jim Hall was their man. This 2009 Marciac performance of My Funny Valentine finds Hall in the company of Kenny Barron, Scott Colley and Lewis Nash, all of whom are as tasteful as the guitar maestro himself.
Marc Myers’s essay on Hampton Hawes is brutally honest about the excesses that often mar the pianist’s trio (and Hawes was hardly the only pianist with too much technique and too little restraint), but that’s just a launching point to praise Hawes’s very overlooked three volumes of All Night Session on the Contemporary label. These relaxed jams with guitarist Jim Hall added to the mix are, in Myers’s view, among Hampton Hawes’s finest work.
I got tired of the submissions from people who are on good terms with the Crows, and appear to think that this is an easy thing to be. The Crows are just as frightening as the Gentry, in many ways. If you start to think of them as safe, or trivialise their regard by assuming you can buy it with minor things - scraps of food and respectful nods that cost you little to nothing - then you are going to have a very bad time.
Thus, as a public service; a trilogy of anecdotes:
The first thing they tell you about the Crows is this: Some say that if they love you they will lead you home, no matter how far you have wandered. But the crows do not love many.
Once, there was a student who paid faithful tribute to the Court of Crows. She offered food and trinkets at noon each day, and sang to them when the moon was full. She presumed herself safe, that she had bought the shade of their sheltering wings.
Then she watched as her roommate, her dearest friend, was Taken out from under one of the Crows trees. In her furious grief she swore revenge, but with summer break just around the corner, her friends thought she’d get over it. That she’d cool her head.
She came back with a shotgun, and a box full of neatly-stacked shells, and her friends and fellow students paid the price for it. Those were a bad few days. People lost friends.
No-one ever saw her again, or a body. But Jim from down the hall swears up and down the janitor came away with a bucket full of red water.
Do not anger the Crows. Do not presume their favour. It is theirs alone to grant, and they owe you nothing.
Once there was a student who took heed of the stories of the Crows. He left them offerings and read them poems, and this they tolerated, though they never showed him special favour.
He grew resentful of this lack, and stepped up his efforts. He bought them lavish gifts; outcompeting those who left them food or trinkets. He praised them during his breaks, striving to outdo those who simply nodded with respect. Every time they fluttered and shifted on their branches without gracing him with affection, his ugly fury grew.
Iron and salt stop only the Gentry. He found a feather on his pillow one morning, jet black and ragged-edged and stained with blood. Rather than taking this as a warning and a caution, he showed it to all who would look; let words boil out of his mouth that put form to what he felt he deserved. The next night, he dreamed of harsh croaks and cold air, and sharp beaks pecking out his eyes and tongue.
He woke up blind and mute, never to covet them again.
Do not insult the Crows. Do not try to buy their favour. It is not a thing to be sold, and you are entitled to nothing.
Once there was a student who was Taken by the Gentry. He laboured under Their affections until they released him into Elsewhere; uncaring as to his fate. Knowing what would befall him if he lingered, he searched desperately for a route that would lead him home.
A black shape took wing from the trees above him, and thinking himself safe, he sobbed in relief. He had always paid his respects to the Crows, and now he wept with joy and promised them much if they would lead him back to safer lands. More came, and he followed the ever-growing flock deeper and deeper down forest paths.
Eventually, he reached a clearing where the bare earth was dyed crimson. Human bones lay scattered on the ground, pecked clean of flesh. The flock settled all about him, and at last he remembered.
Not for nothing is a group of crows named a murder.
Do not rely on the Crows. Do not ask for their favour. They are neither safe nor tame, and they are bound by nothing.
Tra le collaborazioni importanti di Jim Hall tra la fine degli anni 50 e l'inizio dei ‘60 oltre a quella con Jimmy Giuffrè bisogna menzionare quella con Paul Desmond, che diede ottimi risultati, anche se su una linea meno sperimentale e più squisitamente “californiana”. Del sax alto Paul Desmond si è detto di tutto e il contrario di tutto: ai tempi era considerato un conservatore, direi un manierista, dotato com'era di una inarrivabile perfezione formale nell'esecuzione degli assolo e di una sonorità oserei dire classica. L'equivoco più grave fu quello di considerarlo un discendente di Lee Konitz: a mio avviso i due sassofonisti erano in realtà diversissimi negli esiti della loro musica (ne parleremo in futuro). A tanti anni di distanza, e visto com'è andata la storia del jazz, l'eloquio di Paul Desmond potrebbe assumere paradossalmente dei caratteri innovativi. Si tratta comunque di un numero primo, di una figura isolata e per questo motivo a mio avviso grande. Ascoltiamo Jim Hall e Paul Desmond in questa “Time After Time” del 1959 assieme alla sezione ritmica del Modern jazz Quartet