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 On the quartet albums the piano has been replaced by drums, and the balance has shifted with the introduction of new leaders, both on reeds.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.
In short this collection of albums recorded during the period 1957 - 1960 is excellent and great value for money.
Jim Hall is one of the finest jazz guitarists who first came to my attention when he played with Chico Hamilton, circa 1955 (check out Chico Hamilton's smooth cool West Coast jazz, also available on Avid label). Two of the albums are trios featuring bass and piano, with Jim Hall as leader. These two albums showcase the sensitivity of Jim's immaculate guitar playing, the choice of tunes being well known jazz standards and are therefore easily accessible, swinging performances. The third full album is under the leadership of Paul Desmond, who at this time (1959) was the star turn in the great Dave Brubeck quartet that had just recorded "Time Out". Apart from PD (alto) and JH (gtr) there are two members of the MJQ, Percy Heath (b) and Connie Kay (d), a genuine all star group playing seven more standard tunes.
The weak(er) part, to my mind, are the seven tracks recorded with clarinetist, Bill Smith, Monty Budwig and Shelly Manne. The problem isn't so much the lack of skill, but the choice of tunes. The title of the album gives some idea of that choice. By the way, the musicians on the first two albums were Red Mitchell, Red Kelly and Carl Perkins (the pianist, not the "Blue Suede Shoe" man).
Despite my reservations regarding seven of the tracks, the other twenty two are pearls. A great investment.