Grand Slam features an all-star quartet with guitarist Jim Hall, saxophonist Joe Lovano, bassist George Mraz and drummer Lewis Nash. Recorded live at the Regattabar in Cambridge, Massachusetts from January 20-22, Grand Slam is not a casual side project, but a complete thought unto itself.
Diverse, creative and energetic, Hall is one of the preeminent guitarists in jazz. Lovano was one of the top saxophonists of the '90s. Teamed up with a rhythm section of Mraz and Nash, Grand Slam offers plenty of awe-inspiring improvising.
The opening track "Slam," where each member in turn plays breaks while the other three state the theme, brings to mind Hall's influential years with the Jimmy Giuffre 3. The celebratory "Say Hello to Calypso" is a nod to the guitarist's tenure with Sonny Rollins. Hall also contributes "Border Crossing" and "All Across the City," a ballad originally created for his second encounter with Bill Evans. Lovano's "Feel Free" was actually completed during the band's engagement at the Regattabar. "Chelsea Rendezvous," one of the saxophonist's most familiar compositions, is a celebration of his former Manhattan neighborhood, and "Blackwell's Message" is Lovano's memorial to drummer Ed Blackwell.
Jim Hall was born in Buffalo, New York and later moved to Cleveland, Ohio. By the age of 13, he had become a professional musician and was soon listening to the guitar work of Charlie Christian, then Django Reinhardt. Upon graduation from high school, Hall entered the Cleveland Institute of Music where he majored in music theory. He eventually left for Los Angeles, and, in 1955, as a member of the original Chico Hamilton Quintet, began to attract international attention. By 1960, Hall had arrived in New York City to work with Sonny Rollins and Art Farmer, among many others.
Hall has been recognized for decades as one of the most influential guitarists in jazz, but it his recent work on Telarc that has set the standard for what it means to be a complete jazz musician. His previous release, the acclaimed Jim Hall & Pat Metheny (CD-83442), spent most of 1999 on the Billboard Jazz Chart, eventually peaking at #2. 1998's By Arrangement (CD-83436) showcased his arranging talents, while 1997's Textures (83402) focused on Hall's unique compositional skills.
Straddling the line between "inside" and "outside," Grand Slam is flawlessly swinging, perfectly executed jazz.