The jazz world lost master guitarist Jim Hall in December, and it struck close to home for me. I had a deep connection with Jim both musically and personally, and I’m overwhelmed by the loss.
We met when he came to New York from California with the Jimmy Giuffre Three in 1958. He moved into an apartment near mine in Greenwich Village, and we began hanging out together a lot. We listened to records, played, laughed a lot, and went around to hear all the music in town together.
Giuffre found that Bob Brookmeyer was available, and immediately added him to his trio, giving up his bass player to add the trombone. That made Jim Hall the entire rhythm section for the group, and he handled the job perfectly. For a while he kept a second guitar handy which was tuned a fourth lower. He also figured out some grips that included wrapping his left thumb around the neck of his guitar to add bass notes on the low string.
Jim was one of the best laughers I ever had the pleasure to know. Many things delighted him, and he would twinkle and laugh when he told me about something that amused him. One day, early in our friendship, he and Brookmeyer and Giuffre were at my apartment on Cornelia Street, listening to some records. Jim lay down on my carpet on his back, with his hands behind his head. Bob and I were making jokes, and something I said struck Jim funny. He leaped up with laughter so convulsively that he dislocated his left shoulder. We had to rush him over to Saint Vincent’s hospital where they managed to get him back together, but he had a very sore arm. He had a record date the next day with Giuffre, and told me he did a lot of moving the guitar around with his knees to avoid moving his left arm.
Guitarist Jimmy Raney also lived in the Village then, and he and Jim Hall and I often played together at David Young’s loft at 821 Sixth Avenue, along with other friends like Brookmeyer, Zoot Sims, Billy Bean and Dave McKenna. Jim Hall’s playing was always so satisfying. Good time, beautiful sound, and an immediacy that always drew you into the heart of the music. I was glad when both Brookmeyer and Gerry Mulligan included me in recording projects with Jim, and I treasure those records.
During the last few years, Jim got into the habit of calling me frequently at Local 802, sometimes to comment on an item in this column, sometimes to tell me about something funny that crossed his mind, sometimes just to remember good times in the past. I’m going to miss those calls.
See Jim’s obituary in this month’s Requiem.
I found this story on Facebook, told by T. S. Monk to Frank Alkyer. T.S. was traveling with his father, Thelonious Monk, when his quartet was playing in Cleveland. There was a strip joint across the street where the two young guys in the band, bassist Larry Gales and drummer Ben Riley, liked to visit between sets. Once Riley lost track of the time and returned to his gig to find that Monk and Gales and tenorman Charlie Rouse had already started playing without him. He ran to the drums and got in the groove with the band, and it looked like everything was cool. Then, after Monk, Rouse and Gales had all soloed, Monk gave it to Ben for a drum solo. As Ben began to play, Monk gathered Rouse and Gales and T.S. and walked out of the club with them, flagging a cab. They went back to their hotel where Monk had a record player in his room. They listened to Art Tatum records for a while, and then Monk said, “Okay, let’s go back.” They took another cab back to the club, where Ben Riley had been playing a drum solo for over half an hour. T.S. said Ben “was looking a shell of his former self. And he never was late for a set again.”
Don Robertson passed along a new Benny Goodman story that he got from Larry Tain. Don said, “One of Larry’s ex-wives, Jan Tober, sang with a small Benny Goodman group in the 1950s or 60s. Benny never got her name right, and would mangle it every time he introduced her, even after pleas from her to say it right. Finally she replied to one more mangled announcement, ‘Thank you, Benny Goldman.’ Larry said he got it right after that.”
Here’s a story from Scott Black:
The Eberle brothers, Bob and Ray, sang with the top big bands in the swing era. Bob sang with Jimmy Dorsey and Ray sang with Glenn Miller. (Bob ended his name with a “y” to distinguish them.) Bob was still performing in nightclubs when Ray died in 1979. A fan came up to Bob at a break and confessed how much she admired their singing over the years. Then she said, “I read that one of you died a few weeks ago. Was that you or your brother?” It gave poor Bob the first good laugh he had had in weeks.
Bill Wurtzel was on Alex Leonard’s gig at Rothmann’s. A woman introduced her grandson, a college student who was interested in purchasing Alex’s CD. Alex asked, “Is he a musician?” Grandma replied, “No, he’s an intellectual.”
Once on a club date, Wurtzel heard the caterer say “First, people eat. Then musicians eat.”