The presence of Pat Metheny on Jim Hall's 1998 By Arrangement fulfilled the younger guitarist's long-standing dream of recording with Hall. But these duets confirm how beautiful their performing together could become. Unlike many encounters between high-profile guitarists, these recordings, from both a New York studio and a Pittsburgh concert, show no sense of competition or interest in displays of empty virtuosity. Instead, the CD's true to the enduring spirit of Hall's music, emphasizing interaction and a subtle complexity. Hall plays the lightly amplified electric guitar that is his trademark, with a gorgeous liquid tone, while Metheny brings a bevy of instruments to the meeting, including a standard electric (no synth), several acoustics--including a fretless classical--and his 42-string model for some remarkably harplike effects. There's tremendous variety in the music and thought in the choices of tunes and approaches. "The Birds and the Bees," played in memory of its composer, the late guitarist Attila Zoller, has a haunting depth, while the frequently played "Summertime" achieves a new identity in Metheny's arrangement, with spare and vibrant lead contrasting with animated rhythm guitar. Both musicians are adept composers, and highlights include Metheny's "Ballad X" and Hall's increasingly propulsive "Cold Spring." Given that Hall participated in one of the first recorded examples of free improvisation, "Free Form" with the Chico Hamilton Quintet in 1955, and Metheny has recorded with the British avant-gardist Derek Bailey, it's fitting that the two guitarists test the limits of their empathy in five brief and intriguing collective improvisations that sometimes explore unusual textures and microtonal harmonies. Whatever the material, though, the earmarks of the set are a quiet energy and a sustained lyric invention that invite and reward repeated listenings. The recording quality is superb, capturing every nuance of this music that seems to live near the core of the jazz guitar ethos. --Stuart Broomer
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High Class Pablum
David Keymer | Modesto CA | 08/01/2005
(3 out of 5 stars)
"Jim Hall and Pat Metheny are such excellent musicians that no album featuring the two of them in duet can be all bad but this album comes close.
I tried repeatedly to like this album but each time I listened to it, my eyes grew heavy. It's an album of high class pablum, nothing more. Hall and Metheny play against each other with great empathy but too seldom muscle. The cuts have too little separate character --everything blends together.
It's more than pretty tinkling --these guys are giants, after all! But it's not what it could have been, which was an album in which each cut played a role in building to an overall effect.
It's difficult to point out specific places where it went wrong but for a start, try listening to their rendition of "Summertime." Think of all the superior versions you've heard of this song --Miles, Hank Jones, Helen Merrill..... This one is just dull.
I hate writing a negative review of Jim Hall. He has been a hero of mine since I first heard him in the mid-fifties with Chico Hamilton and then Jimmy Giuffre. One of my all-time favorite albums, unfortunately never re-released, is The Modest Jazz Trio, Good Morning Blues (Pacific Jazz), with Hall on guitar, Red Mitchell on piano (instead of bass), and Red Kelly on bass.
I don't have as much trouble writng a negative review of Metheny, because I don't enjoy his work with his own group. However, he is an exceptional musician who has done wonderful, even adventurous, stuff --his album with Ornette Coleman, his work with Abbey Lincoln (especially "Throw It Away"), his trio album with Roy Haynes and Dave Holland.
Both Hall and Metheny deserve the opportunity to record a better album than this. Not that it's bad. Just that it's not as good as they are. And definitely not as exciting.
Oodles of nice clean riffs but....
C. A. Lemley | 07/14/2006
(3 out of 5 stars)
"Recording quality = muffled 'cassette' sound - entirely void of quality mix. A proper mix would have earned it an additional star."