This reissue includes the first two albums on which Jim Hall was the leader, namely "Jazz Guitar" recorded in January 1957, on which he was joined by Carl Perkins on piano and Red Mitchell on bass; and "Good Friday Blues" by the Modest Jazz Trio from April 1960, on which Red Mitchell switched to piano and Red Kelly took his place on bass. That is supplemented by seven of the eleven tracks from the album "Folk Jazz" recorded in February & November 1959 by the Bill Smith Quartet, in which the clarinetist leader was joined by Hall, Monty Budwig on bass, and Shelly Manne on drums, and all seven tracks from the Paul Desmond album "First Place Again" from September 1959, with support from Hall, Percy Heath on bass, and Connie Kay on drums.
My preference is for the two Hall-led trio albums, where the guitarist is primus inter pares, and where his cool but lyrical style is well-matched by the piano and bass accompaniment. The result is often low-key but always swinging, and highly satisfying. On the quartet albums the piano has been replaced by drums, and the balance has shifted with the introduction of new leaders, both on reeds. The "Folk Jazz" album is something of a curio, since Bill Smith is not a familiar name, and the tunes are not natural jazz vehicles. In the original sleeve note, which is reproduced here, Nat Hentoff writes "...he is not afraid of a good, devastating consonance..." and that's amply borne out here. Paul Desmond needs no introduction, and devotees of his singular style of playing will not be disappointed.