Jim Hall has continued to explore new possibilities as a performer and composer late in his career, refusing to coast on his past successes. This live CD was recorded over a series of several nights at the Village Vanguard in the spring of 2004, with longtime collaborators Scott Colley on bass and drummer Lewis Nash (though they have never recorded as a trio). The leader contributed three originals, including the adventurous opener "Bent Blue," "Canto Neruda" (post-bop with a Mexican-like vamp by Hall) which showcases Colley to good effect, along with "Furnished Flats," a seemingly loping theme that is full of sudden twists. Hall conducts a virtual master class for would-be guitarists with his spacious interpretation of the standard "Skylark," suggesting just a hint of Latin flavor. It is little challenge for the veteran guitarist to find new possibilities within a venerable standard like "Body and Soul," while "St. Thomas," the traditional calypso made famous by Sonny Rollins, features a marvelous opening duet by Hall and Nash, before Colley joins the fun as the trio strays far from its original theme, though the leader adds a humorous surprise quote from "I've Been Working on the Railroad." The Village Vanguard audience and staff seem intent on not letting out a peep (though they do applaud some solos) as they obviously realize they are witnessing jazz history in the making; the engineering is flawless. Issued exclusively as a limited edition available through www.artistshare.com, this CD is somewhat pricey but well-worth the investment.
AllMusic Review by Ken Dryden