March 26, 2015

Haden and Hall


Duet Masters Together

~By Armand Lewis

Some musical partnerships are simply meant to be, even though they may not be long term. Some come together early in their musical careers, like Charlie Parker and Dizzy Gillespie, only to separate leaving a lasting legacy as they pursue their own paths. Others may take years to unite, even though in retrospect, it may seem an obvious pairing. Even more so if both partners have been traveling the same path for years before getting together.

chalie-haden-jim-hallBassist Charlie Haden and guitarist Jim Hall could not have had more different backgrounds. Haden was born in Missouri in 1937 to a family of country musicians, where he became part of the family act at an early age. By the 1950s, he had made his way to Los Angeles, where he played bass with a number of local jazz groups; eventually joining up with Ornette Coleman just as the saxophonist was heading for New York.

Later, Haden would lead and play with a number of groups, including his own quartets and large ensemble Liberation Music Orchestra. By the 1970s, Haden would start to make albums consisting entirely of duets with other freedom-minded musicians, including Archie Shepp, Alice Coltrane and his mentor Ornette Coleman. Later duet albums would feature the bassist along with pianist Hampton Hawes, pianist Hank Jones, as well as an album with guitarist Pat Metheney.

Jim Hall would spend much of his later career making duet albums as well, though he would come to the form via an entirely different route. Born in Buffalo New York in 1930, Hall would also find his way to Los Angeles in the mid-1950s, where he played with drummer Chico Hamilton’s groups. This led to his first trio LP on Pacific Jazz entitled simply Jazz Guitar (1957).
In 1962, Hall teamed up with pianist Bill Evans to create the classic Undercurrent LP. Instrumental jazz duet albums where a rarity at the time, but both player’s subtle shading and gentle lyrical interplay made this one of the finest modern jazz albums ever made.

The 1960s found Hall serving as a sideman to Ella Fitzgerald, then Sonny Rollins and later Paul Desmond. When Hall finally began leading his own sessions in the early 1970s, the albums that followed included several duet recordings including sessions with bassists Ron Carter (“Alone Together” 1972), Red Mitchell (“Jim Hall & Red Mitchell” 1978) and pianist George Shearing (“First Edition” 1981).

By the time Haden and Hall found themselves performing together at the Montreal Jazz Festival in July 1990, recording a duet performance was long overdue. Now, finally, the newly revived Impulse label has released that meeting as simply Charlie Haden – Jim Hall (Impulse B002176502).

Thelonious Monk’s compositions have always straddled the line between modern (bop) and avant-garde styles. With their intricate, angular constructions, tunes such as the opener on this album “Bemsha Swing,” showcase the soloist’s skill
and dexterity.

Ornette Coleman’s “Turn-around” starts off with an almost “Monk-ish” opening, before resolving into a vehicle for Hall’s spare, direct lines with Haden content to “walk” the bass in support for much of the tune.

Hall’s “Down From Antigua” has a strong Spanish feel, which makes sense as Hall had a affinity for Spanish guitar – specifically Joaquin Rodrigo’s “Conierto de Aranguez,” which Hall famously recorded for CTI Records in the mid 1970s. By reducing the amplification, Hall had an amazing ability to make his electric guitar sound almost acoustic and here the resulting sound is rich and vibrant.

Haden’s “In the Moment” comes close to the avant-garde Free-Jazz approach of his time with Ornette Coleman — especially in the growling support given Hall’s extra spare guitar lines throughout. Here Haden’s roving, fluid basslines behind and sometimes in contrast to the lead guitar make this challenging music accessible.

This would not be the last time these two masters would record in the duet format. Charlie Haden would record a duet album with guitarist Pat Metheney (Under the Missouri Sky 1996), while Jim Hall would record his own duet album with Metheney three years later (Jim Hall and Pat Metheney – 1999).

Hall and Haden’s final duet recording would come in 2001, when Haden would appear on Hall’s Jim Hall and Basses (2001), which features the guitarist in duets with several of jazz’s most well known bass players.

While all of the aforementioned records are easily recommended, this new release is probably the fullest expression of the duet format the two musicians produced.

Armand Lewis buys and sells rare Jazz LPs. He can be reached at


Be the first to comment!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *