Jim Hall and Joe Pass,1986



Published: April 5, 1986, NY Times

Joe Pass and Jim Hall, the jazz guitar giants who are sharing the bill at the Blue Note (131 West Third Street) through Sunday, offer an interesting study in contrasting jazz-guitar styles. Mr. Pass is an impeccable sculptor of musical form whose performances maintain a scrupulous balance between melody and bass line. His attention to form is matched by a remarkably fleet-fingered technique that tosses off long improvisations without a ruffle. Mr. Hall, who is leading a trio that includes the bassist Steve LaSpina and the drummer Akira Tana, is less concerned with song form than with communicating a swinging involvement with his material while exploring his instrument’s finer textual nuances.

Mr. Pass, though troubled by sound problems in his opening set on Tuesday, displayed his customary elegant lyricism in languid, exploratory renditions of ”Body and Soul,” ”Polka Dots and Moonbeams” and the bossa-nova song ”Wave.” With his characteristic coolness, he made each song an investigation of form, moving from ruminative, stealthy dialogues between melody and bass line toward more accelerated statements that wove the two elements together in flowing sequences of blues-tinged chromatic chords.

Where Mr. Pass’s solo set maintained an austere reserve, Mr. Hall and his cohorts played with twangier, more percussive timbres. At moments Mr. Hall found echoes and resonances influenced by Oriental scales as well as by the more lyrical side of be-bop. The trio opened its set with a happy, loose-jointed ”With a Song in My Heart,” followed by a Thelonious Monk blues tune and an extended, gossamer-textured ”Skylark.” Mr. Hall’s very melodic playing had an easygoing fluency that often suggested improvised vocal lines. And his duets with Mr. LaSpina’s warmly singing bass, which almost became a lead guitar on two extended solos, stood among the high points of a joyous set.


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