Now this is really different. Without dropping his electric and acoustic guitars for a minute, Jim Hall reaches back to his early classical studies and joins the Third Stream. The result is an absorbing set of seven Hall compositions that reveal a hitherto unseen, serious, sometimes whimsical side of a musician we all thought we had pegged. A lot of this is rooted in 1950s classical/jazz fusions from Stan Kenton to Gunther Schuller, yet Hall thankfully makes even the most cerebral passages sound attractive, thanks in part to the delicate, still-soft timbres of his electric guitar. Each piece is quite different from that of its neighbor; two ("Fanfare," "Reflections") have surprisingly dense and dissonant writing for a brass septet, another ("Quadrologue") uses pizzicato strings plunking acerbically over a repeated ostinato, still another is an informal "Passacaglia" with isolated interludes for solo classical guitar. The splendidly nostalgic "Sazanami," with steel drum tappings over a Caribbean shaker rhythm, is the closest thing to a strictly jazz-oriented groove on the CD, and a mock "Circus Dance" for oompah-ing brass adds a touch of droll and morose humor at the end of the program. The most original piece is probably "Ragman," with its contemporary string writing, Middle Eastern flavor, and Joe Lovano rattling around the percussive rhythms on soprano sax. Signing with Telarc -- allegedly a safe refuge for aging jazz stars -- seems to have brought out the daring explorer in Hall in this and his previous release, Dialogues. More power to him.
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AllMusic Review by Richard S. Ginell