Released for the first time on this 1999 Challenge CD, this live set features the unusual duo of guitarist Jim Hall and valve trombonist Bob Brookmeyer, two-thirds of the 1957 Jimmy Giuffre Three. Although there are occasions when one of the musicians accompanies the other one, much of the time Hall and Brookmeyer function as equals, improvising together on a set of standards plus an ad-lib blues called "Sweet Basil." Their ability to improvise while thinking of the whole picture and their knack for spontaneously harmonizing really come in handy during this intriguing and frequently exciting outing. Among the selections reborn in the playing of Hall and Brookmeyer are John Lewis' "Skating in Central Park," "Body and Soul," "Darn That Dream," and "St. Thomas." A successful effort that should not have taken 20 years to release.
Guitarist Jim Hall is the sort of musician who displays such technical expertise, imaginative conception, and elegance of line and phrase that almost any recording of his is worth hearing. Still, Concierto ranks among the best albums of his superb catalog. For starters, the personnel here is a jazz lover's dream come true. Paul Desmond (saxophone), Chet Baker (trumpet), Roland Hanna (piano), Ron Carter (bass), and Steve Gadd (drums) are on board, creating – along with Hall – one of the highest profile lineups ever put to tape. Yet Concierto is not about star power and showboating. As subtle, nuanced, and considered as any of Hall's output, the ensemble playing here demonstrates great group sensitivity and interplay, giving precedence to mood and atmosphere over powerhouse soloing. Conductor and arranger Don Sebesky evinces a chamber ambience from the sextet on "You'd Be So Nice to Come Home To," the smoky "The Answer Is Yes," and the Hall centerpiece "Concierto de Aranjuez".
Although the rhythm section was more "modern" than he usually used (keyboardist Benny Aronov, bassist Malcolm Cecil, and Airto Moreira on drums and percussion), guitarist Jim Hall (who always had a harmonically advanced style anyway) has little difficulty adapting to the fresh setting. Highlights of the well-rounded CD reissue include Hall's "Simple Samba," "Baubles, Bangles and Beads," an unaccompanied "I Should Care," and Milton Nascimento's "Vera Cruz".
This 1988 studio date is one of the overlooked treasures in the considerable discography of Jim Hall, possibly due to the label's low-key promotion and less than eye-catching cover art. It is easy to understand why artists like Art Farmer and Paul Desmond omitted a pianist after hearing a release such as this one, because it would only clutter Hall's soft yet complete accompaniment. Joined by Tom Harrell (heard mostly on flügelhorn), bassist Steve LaSpina, and drummer Joey Baron, this CD is a delight from start to finish. The interaction of the musicians in the opener, a lively, waltzing "With a Song in My Heart," makes it sound like they have been a working unit for years.