Jim Hall is the preeminent jazz guitarist. His tone, technique and style have put him above all partisan guitar and traditional jazz controversies — everyone likes him, and no one minds crediting him as an elder. At 75, Hall has influenced a generation of guitarists, John Scofield, Bill Frisell, Pat Metheny and Kurt Rosenwinkel to name a few.
Next week Hall will tour with pianist Geoffrey Keezer.
Beginning in the early 1960s, Hall recorded a series of duo works. His most famous have become classics: 1962’s “Undercurrent” and 1966’s “Intermodulation” with pianist Bill Evans; 1972’s “Alone Together” with bassist Ron Carter (and a live recording “Live at Village East” they made together a decade later); and 1999’s Telarc release with Pat Metheny. Not slowing down a bit, last year Hall released two duo CDs, “Duologues” with Italian pianist Enrico Pieranunzi and “Free Association” with American pianist Geoffrey Keezer.
The titles of those CDs capture the essence of the enduring duo format. As Hall has noted in numerous interviews, he finds playing with one other person challenging and rewarding — it’s freer and more of a conversation than playing in a larger group. Hall’s accomplished voice seems to bring out the best in his partners as the one-on-one exchanges become intricate and intense.
The prolific Keezer, who is half Hall’s age but already has two handfuls of releases to his name, rises to his most mature work to date with Hall. Hall picks his partners carefully, and their call-and-response, counterpoint, introspective moods and lyrical textures have a rare intimacy. Keezer’s youthful and equally lyrical style create a dynamic tension with Hall’s cool tones and all-embracing mastery. In a live setting, their spontaneous exchanges should expand into even greater intensity.