I guess a review of this could just say “He’s the master,” and leave it at that. But that wouldn’t be fair to you, the reader, or the publishers of VG, who wouldn’t pay me for a three-word review.
This is actually a two-disc set that repackages Jim’s 1981 record Circles, and 1989’s All Across the City. Hall is one of a select few who never make a bad record. His playing always has something to say, and his compositions are top-notch.
It’s hard to think of a jazz player with a better tone; it’s big and fat, and his dynamics make it perfect. Chops-wise, well… come on. These two discs are perfect examples of what he can do.
Harmonically, Hall has few peers. His chordal work has always been gorgeous and daring. Check out his take on “Love Letters.”
With these albums being eight years apart, there’s definitely a different feel between them. For lack of a better word, the last 11 cuts sound “more modern.” Hall even uses a chorus on a couple of cuts. It’s almost like Metheny or Scofield playing it straight traditionally. I do like the second disc a little more. It’s a little more adventurous, featuring tunes by Hall, Duke Ellington, and Monk. A very diverse set. That’s not to disparage the first disc, though, because as I said, he’s one of those few players you’re never disappointed in.
For fans, it’s nice to see Concord repackage this stuff at a great price. For folks who aren’t familiar yet, check it out. You’ll be exposed to one of the greatest players ever.
This article originally appeared in VG‘s Nov. ’02 issue. All copyrights are by the author and Vintage Guitar magazine. Unauthorized replication or use is strictly prohibited.