Jazz Master Jim Hall, 1930-2013

by Tom Lee

Today the Office for the Arts mourns the passing of guitarist Jim Hall, who was an OFA/Harvard Jazz Bands artist in residence in April 2004, the same year he was designated a "Jazz Master" by the National Endowment for the Arts. Boston Globe correspondent Bill Buettler, in an interview with Hall around the time of his Harvard residency, wrote: "He's a guitarist's guitarist. Younger stars such as Pat Metheny and Bill Frisell revere him. 'He was just really gigantic—well, he still is—a huge hero of mine,' says Frisell, who took several lessons from Hall after dropping out of Berklee College of Music in 1971."

Mike Ramos '04-'05, a guitarist in the Harvard Jazz Bands at that time, noted, "There is no one on any instrument on the planet who can do what he does. His sense of harmony and chordal harmony—how sophisticated, logical, beautiful, creative and unique it was."

While at Harvard, Hall participated in a Learning From Performers conversation on his career and contributions to music, and was a guest of Steve Schwartz's WGBH-FM "Jazz From Studio Four" as well as the WERS-FM (Emerson College) program, "Jazz Oasis." He also performed in "The Music of Jim Hall," a concert with the Harvard Jazz Bands at Sanders Theatre on April 17. This clip from that evening demonstrates Hall's understated but genuinely enthusiastic appreciation of his experience at Harvard—and also his very wry sense of humor.