No Hang-ups

Written by Sam Mondros

No Hang-ups is a weekly segment where you can find recommendations for jazz music of all kinds! This weeks album:

Concierto (1975) by guitarist Jim hall featuring Paul Desmond, alto sax; Chet Baker, trumpet; Steve Gadd, drums; Ron Carter, upright bass; and Roland Hanna on piano & electric piano.

With a heavy-hitting lineup know for attracting the most casual of jazz listeners it’s easy to understand why Jim Hall’s, Concierto, is deserving of a recent rerelease from CTI Records with bonus tracks and alternate takes. This album delivers a cool jazz sound with Spanish influences and steady chops from each player. The album opens with You’d Be So Nice To Come Home To (a Cole Porter tune). This track truly allows each player to shine in their own light and Jim hall is right in the center with his impeccable playing. His licks and display of dexterity are highlighted by Hanna’s absolute dedication to playing in the pocket. Desmond’s unmistakable alto sax comes in with a meandering confidence reminiscent of Strange Meadow Lark (Brubeck ’59) while Baker plays some shy counterpoint before they switch roles. Baker lets loose while Gadd keeps concise control. Carter Bass solo spells jazz fusion out loud for us, after all this was recorded in ’75, with texture and tone that might have more of a place in a Weather Report live album.

Chet Baker (right) is at the height of his comeback and delivers mercurial playing that is energetic throughout the album. His solo on Two’s Blues is backed by Gadds rudiments and then answered playfully by Hall’s noodling. The track is short but the listener is left feeling more than satisfied.

The Answer Is Yes once again shows us why, even in ’75, jazz was alive and not lacking in invention. It starts off slow with Desmond and Hall trading chops. Gadd and Hanna build the energy before Baker brings it to its peak with his solo. In its last-minute, it modulates and turns into a sweet little waltz. Hall shifts the mood and Hanna responds with a very Guaraldiesque phrase. The band slowly goes out and then returns to cadence before the 20-minute-epic Concierto De Aranjuez begins.

Hall’s take on Joaquin Rodrigo’s piece for classical guitar is composed, economic and stunning. A three-minute ballad crescendos before Hall trickles down a minor scale. Carter’s bass line starts and then distorts when Gadd and eventually Hanna come in to complement. The piece, of Spanish origin, is given some new shades via Desmond’s bluesy solo. Baker’s solo while not particularly interesting in style is wonderful in texture and technique. Jim hall sits completely in the pocket during the other players’ solos and Hanna finds his way out here and there. But overall this piece is meant for pleasure and not for experiment. It’s orchestral but cool, the perfect fusion of jazz and classical.

Rock Skippin’ is fun by nature and Carter’s bassline contributes to that fusion feel that permeates Concierto. This piece lives somewhere between A Charlie Brown Christmas and The Swinging Guitar Of Tal Farlow. Hall goes completely acoustic for the first time with Unfinished Business accompanied only by Desmond’s sanguine noodling and Carter’s interacting bassline.

Give this album a listen. You will not be disappointed, it is a perfect introduction to jazz music and a great way to discover some of the titans of the genre. This album carries the same borrowed nostalgia as Bob Dylan’s work of the same time period. Reaching back to a decade behind, these players create something new while nudging the audience not to forget what history beholds.

Album Highlights: Gadds high tuned drums are recorded up close and to perfection. The Spanish and Brazilian influences are omnipresent while not overpowering.

Album MVP: Chet Baker. tasteful and an unmistakable sound. Baker somehow is able to outshine every powerhouse player on this album and this is post crippling addiction. Baker’s reassembled embouchure puzzles and astounds.

Genre: Cool jazz, Spanish jazz, Classical Jazz, Post-bop