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Concierto – Jim Hall, guitar – CTI/ Pure Pleasure PPAN 6060 – (2 vinyl discs)

Concierto – Jim Hall, guitar – CTI (1975)/ Pure Pleasure PPAN 6060 (2015) – (2 vinyl discs, 33 1/3 speed) *****:

(Jim Hall, guitar; Don Sebesky, arrangements/musical direction; Roland Hanna, piano; Ron Carter, bass; Steve Gadd, drums; Chet Baker, trumpet; Paul Desmond, alto sax)

What a great combination and what gorgeous sonics from these four sides! Jim Hall was known for his lyricism, soft textures and harmony-oriented improvisation skills. Don Sebesky was one of the finest arrangers in jazz, and although Creed Taylor tried to get big sales of his albums which often took straight-ahead players into Smooth Jazz areas, in this case all the elements were just perfect.

Many jazz performers in the ‘70s were assailing the ears with high-energy, distorted, rock-influenced music. But not guitarist Jim Hall and the rest of the A-team backing him up on these sides. The album title comes from his (and Sebesky’s) 19-minute take on Rodrigo’s lovely Concierto de Aranjuez.

That provides Side 2 of this four-sided album. But there are also eight other shorter tracks with such classical connections, and the last three tracks are alternate takes of tracks earlier on in the album.

Jim Hall had been a mainstay of the original Chico Hamilton cello quintet, and was known for his work with Jimmy Giuffre and Art Farmer, but his playing here with Chet Baker and Paul Desmond is of the highest caliber. Hall’s version of the Rodrigo is quite different from either the jazz versions of Miles Davis or Laurindo Almeida (with the MJQ). He also did a much later version of the Rodrigo piece with the David Matthews Orchestra (on the Evidence CD label), by that time (1993) he was sometimes playing electric guitar. But not on this strictly acoustic session for CTI. And they put the three alternate tracks all at the end – praises be!

This Pure Pleasure album is not handled by Amazon, but they do have the vinyl of the original CTI release. Of course it’s much less expensive, but confined to a single LP as was the original, while Pure Pleasure has spread out the grooves onto two 12-inch vinyls here. In fact, I was a bit surprised this wasn’t a 45 rpm remastering after seeing the two discs, but the fidelity is gorgeous and if I still had the original CTI vinyl I’m sure I would find this superior, especially with a high quality turntable setup. It’s certainly a huge improvement over the CD version. Hall’s lyrical guitar sound comes across in a most masterful way.

TrackList:

1. You’d Be So Nice to Come Home To
2. Two’s Blues
3. The Answer Is Yes
4. Conceirto de Aranjuez (Rodrigo)
5. Rock Skippin’
6. Unfinished Business
7. You’d Be So Nice to Come Home To [Alternate Take]
8. The Answer Is Yes [Alternate Take]
9. Rock Skippin’ [Alternate Take]

—John Henry

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