Tuesday, February 8, 2011

CD Reissue of the Week - "Jim Hall: Concierto"

CD Reissue of the Week
Jim Hall: "Concierto" (CTI/Sony Masterworks) 1975/2011

For his work on "Concierto," his landmark CTI album, Jim Hall received a Grammy® nomination in 1975 for Best Jazz Performance by a Soloist. Conceived & arranged by Don Sebesky, brings together the talents of Paul Desmond, Chet Baker, Sir Roland Hanna, Ron Carter & Steve Gadd. The highlight is the extended jazz version of the Adagio from Joaquin Rodrigo's "Concierto de Aranjuez," a true masterpiece including splendid solos by Hall, Baker, Desmond and specially Hanna.. Several alternate takes of other tracks were added to this CD reissue. Btw, Hall had been named Guitarist of the Year in Downbeat’s Jazz Poll in 1974, the year before he recorded "Concierto." In Japan, the LP sold over 200,000 copies at the time of its original release. Now, it stands out as one of the most often reissued albums in the jazz history (I own 15 different issues in different formats, including DVD-Audio, SACD and SHM-CD) alongside Miles Davis' "Kind of Blue" and "'Round Midnight."

Here are the links for articles I wrote for Brazilian newspapers about previous reissues:

CTI's top connoisseur Doug Payne posted a review about this new Sony Masterworks reissue on his Sound Insights blog.
His text follows:

Concierto -Jim Hall: Guitarist Jim Hall featured on several Creed Taylor productions in the 1960s, including Gary McFarland’s The Jazz Version of ‘How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying’ and The Gary McFarland Orchestra / Special Guest Soloist Bill Evans, Bob Brookmeyer’s Trombone Jazz Samba, Stan Getz’s Big Band Bossa Nova and Voices, Lalo Schifrin’s Piano, Strings & Bossa Nova, Oliver Nelson’s Full Nelson and, most notably, the Bill Evans/Jim Hall date Intermodulation (Creed Taylor also recorded several unreleased sessions with Jim Hall as a leader in 1962-63 for Verve that have not been issued).

By 1975, the guitarist was attempting to make more of a name for himself, having waxed several solo albums for the MPS and Milestone labels, including a live duo with CTI’s house bassist, Ron Carter. The monumental Concierto, the first of several of the guitarist’s appearances on the CTI label that included Big Blues (1978, with Art Farmer), the stunning Studio Trieste (1982) and the odd mish-mash that became Youkali (1992), was not only one of the guitarist’s best recordings up until that time, but one of the greats of Jim Hall’s entire recording career.

Centered around a magically magnificent performance of Joaquin Rodrigo’s “Concierto de Aranjuez,” Concierto is also probably one of CTI’s greatest single artistic triumphs. Gorgeously arranged in a remarkably minimalist fashion (no strings or horns were overdubbed in the making of this classic) by Don Sebesky, “Concierto de Aranjuez” features a stunning performance by not only the guitarist, but provides notable solos from trumpeter Chet Baker and alto saxist Paul Desmond, all of whom combine to give a magisterial presentation.

The rhythm section here and throughout the remainder of the album is terrifically populated by the purposeful Roland Hanna (himself soon to record a number of records for CTI) on piano, Ron Carter on bass and Steve Gadd on drums. Like the 1960 presentation of the tune by Miles Davis and Gil Evans, Hall and Sebesky also provide a variation on only the second of the 1939 composition’s three movements. But what they convey here is truly outstanding and worth savoring each and every second of its nearly 20-minute playing time.

(It’s worth noting that Jim Hall partnered with arranger David Matthews, who began working for CTI around the time Concierto was recorded, to record a new arrangement of “Concierto de Aranjuez” in 1981 for a Japanese label that isn’t quite the performance the 1975 recording is.)

The remainder of Concierto’s program has never felt quite as substantial or sufficient as the magnificent title piece. But it all swings with a passion, fire and grace that such impeccably perfect practitioners, led by the nearly ethereal playing of the leader, are apt to suggest.

Included on the program are Cole Porter’s “You’d Be So Nice To Come Home To” (also with Desmond and Baker), Hall’s “Two’s Blues” (with Baker, no Hanna), wife Jane’s “The Answer is Yes” (with Baker) and Duke Ellington’s “Rock Skippin’” – here given its original title, “Rock Skippin’ at the Blue Note,” for the first time on this release of the disc.

Also included here are “bonus tracks” which appeared on previous CD issues of Concierto including the lovely Desmond/Hall/Carter trio piece “Unfinished Business,” a title the sleeve credits to Hall and Carter, but which is actually a cover of a Mexican folk tune called “La Paloma Azul,” as well as alternate takes of “You’d Be So Nice To Come Home To,” “The Answer Is Yes” and “Rock Skippin’ at the Blue Note.”

Concierto was nominated for a Grammy Award for Best Jazz Performance – Soloist in 1975, losing out to an Oscar Peterson / Dizzy Gillespie album, while Jim Hall reunited with arranger Don Sebesky for his 1976 A&M album Commitment, notably on the tremendous “Lament for a Fallen Matador,” a piece Hall and Sebesky derived from Albinoni’s famed Adagio.

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