• Learn how to build solo lines based on chord tones.
• Understand various comping techniques used to play jazz standards.
• Develop lines that employ string skipping and “pivot” notes.
From his beginnings in 1955 with the Chico Hamilton Quartet to his work with his own groups in the present day, NEA Jazz Master Jim Hall has a style that’s equal parts introspective, whimsical, and virtuosic in a minimalist way. With simple techniques that you can experiment with, Hall has created a sophisticated sound and style that is easily recognized within a few notes. And at 82 years old, Hall is still touring, recording, and evolving as a musician and improviser.
Fig. 1 is a melody inspired by Hall’s work on Sonny Rollins’ groundbreaking album, The Bridge. Recorded in 1962 and with guitar as the solo chordal instrument on the record, Hall is both accompanist and countermelody to Rollins’ tenor saxophone. This example uses the chords from the first eight measures of “Without a Song.”
When it comes to comping, the same rules apply. Fig. 2 uses the same chord progression from the previous example and demonstrates one way that Hall might approach it, by using chord tones—most notably the 3s and 7s—as a springboard.
Over the years Hall has collaborated with many musicians in a duo setting, such as pianist Bill Evans and bassist Ron Carter. In the two-guitar category, Hall has recorded with Pat Metheny and Bill Frisell. And in a fun, White-Stripes-meets-jazz-greats kind of way, he has a duo album with drummer Joey Baron. Fig. 3 incorporates the open string voicings that Hall favors when he is focusing on a more rhythmic, strumming approach. Keep the volume as low as possible on this one, to get more of a “woody” sound, like the one Hall creates with his hollowbody custom Sadowsky guitar. (Even if you don’t have a hollowbody guitar, it will work.)