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Interview to Jim Hall
Blue Note: September 14th 2004 – 10:30 p.m.
By Eva Simontacchi

Pictures By: Alberto Gottardelli
Fai click qui per leggere la versione in italiano

Alberto Gottardelli and I meet Jim Hall between the first set and the second set at Blue Note, Milan, where he performed with his trio and Enrico Pieranunzi. We only have a few minutes for the interview, because in a short while he has to go back on stage. Jim Hall greets us with a warm smile, and after the introductions, we start the interview.

E.S.: Mr. Hall, you have always said that Charlie Christian's solo on "Grand Slam" had really stricken you, and sometimes you still play it when you're performing live. Is it always - or still - on your mind?
J.H.: Well, in a way I think it was kind of my "spiritual awakening"….It's the only one I really had, I think. I was thirteen years old, and I thought: "Whatever he's doing, I wish I could do it!" And now when I hear it, I say the same thing: "I wish I could do that!"

E.S.: So, it's still very fresh in your mind; it's always there….
J.H.: Yes…

E.S.: In your opinion, what importance should tradition have in the life of a young guitar-palyer who is starting today?
J.H.: Well, this is interesting! It's hard for me to say! Well, the main thing I usually say to young players is "enjoy yourself and realize that music gives you so much back, so much inside." Even if you can't make a living at it, just the idea…. Especially to improvise music, it's great. I listened to early blues players and that sort of thing, and I guess it's important to at least know what that is, but for me the most important thing is to keep growing……… Allow yourself to grow every day, just like Picasso did (Jim Hall chuckles warmly)…. To find yourself, and allow it to grow.

E.S.: What about guitar players… In truth, do you believe it is fundamental to study Charlie Christian, Wes, Kessel and…. Jim Hall?
J.H.: (Jim chuckles warmly) Don't study me! 'Cause I don't know what I'm doing….. No, I don't think…. I don't really have any rules. The best thing that I did, I think, was that I managed to get into a Conservatory for five years…. No money or anything, and I didn't know anything about classical music. I was a jazz player, but I wanted to be a better musician, so I heard everything from Gregorian Chant to twelve-tone music, so then, music wasn't just Charlie Christian or Charlie Parker……

E.S.: You expanded your horizons…
J.H.: Yes… I think that's probably the most important thing….. Because there is a lot of people I haven't heard. But I try to surround myself with younger players and keep growing. (Jim grins) I'm not really good at giving advice, because I'm still searching every day.

E.S.: Yes, but you've been searching for a long time, and you've got great experience. You can convey some of your efforts and findings to young players...
J.H.: The main thing that I've realized very strongly recently… I don't really like the word political, and I don't like the use of terms that separate people, but I happen to be an American citizen, I was born there…. But I feel more a citizen of the World, and Terry Clarke and Don Thompson and I were in Korea last year, South Korea, right before our country went to war, and I just got such a great feeling from the people….. So what I found more and more is that music is a way of bonding with other humans, especially – as I said tonight during the concert - with everything that's going on… I just think that music is so important. I feel very privileged. I don't want to make any judgements on anybody, but that's how I feel.

E.S.: How do you see the evolution of guitar today? Many, as Frisell, Metheny, Scofield – with whom you played so impressively – managed to innovate the instrument and its music. Do you agree?
J.H.: Yes I do! Bill Frisell, and there's another guy Adam Rogers who's younger, and Peter Bernstein, they really move the instrument. So I listen to them, but first they listened to me, so it's like a family...

E.S.: Could you say a few words on your duo with Bill Evans?
J.H.: Oh, with Bill! It was such a privilege, and – it's interesting – I didn't know I would still be talking about those records…. (Jim chuckles) I had known Bill for a while and he was a big influence on my guitar playing… Something about his approach to the piano. When he arrived with Miles Davis, most of the other piano players were some kind of a macho bebop thing, and Bill was able to create a different mood, and I really loved it. And I was working with Sonny Rollins and Bill came in one night, and he said: "Would you like to make a record, maybe just the two of us?" And that was it! But those were his record days, so...It was a privilege. Most people think of him as this tragic figure at the piano, but he was very bright, he had a good sense of humor, he was a good cook...

E.S.: What about "The Brige"? You were with Sonny Rollins when the music had been created…
J.H.: I wasn't actually on the bridge with Sonny, but he used to practice the saxophone on the Brooklyn Bridge or another bridge… But he lived nearby and he liked to get out of his apartment and play on the bridge...That was a real privilege, working with Sonny. We're still in touch.

E.S.: Is it true that you've changed your guitar, and you're not playing the D'Acquisto guitar any longer? I mean – tonight you had to borrow a guitar and we know it wasn't yours…. But apart from this?
J.H.: A friend of mine who used to do all the repair work, his name is Roger Sadowsky, he asked me if I was interested in endorsing an instrument, and I had never done that, really. (We are interrupted by the arrival of Jim Hall's guitar from the airport, and Jim looks very happy and satisfied: "Oh! There's my guitar!") He continues:
I had a kind of a gentleman's agreement with Jimmy D'Acquisto. So Roger tried to make this guitar feel like the D'Acquisto, and it's working out beautifully. So maybe just a few months ago I switched to this guitar. I still have my D'Acquisto at home. Jimmy D'Acquisto was a good friend and a fantastic artist.

E.S.: This is your first evening here at Blue Note Milano, and you'll stay for a week. I saw that Blue Note was packed with musicians this evening...
J.H.: On the band-stand too! (we both chuckle)

I thank Mr. Jim Hall for his time and for the interview, Jazzitalia and Blue Note Milano for the privilege of meeting and interviewing jazz guitar legend, Mr. Jim Hall.

Interview in russian language (click)

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