Again, the sound! This may be Newvelle Records’ finest example of vinyl audio verité yet. All the instruments – Ben Allison’s double bass, Ted Nash’s alto saxophone or clarinet and Steve Cardenas nylon-string or steel-string acoustic guitar – have extraordinary presence. It is as though the air in the room is being jostled about by the real devices rather than a pair of speakers.
Half the songs on the album are by Jim Hall and a couple of others are associated with him via Jimmy Giuffre. Hall was one of jazz’s great gentlemen, and the guitarist’s music usually carried a restraint that slightly muted the emotional content, but not the lyrical beauty. So this is not an album to assault you aurally. Rather it is about nuanced interplay, beautiful sounds and svelte grooves. That’s not to say some vigour is not wheeled out when required, as on Giuffre’s bluesy Pony Express, when Allison’s bass and Cardenas’s steel-string work up a head of steam, and Nash’s alto is infused with a gripping urgency.
More often the melodies melt across supple grooves with the sort of effortlessness that is always a hallmark of the best jazz. The fact that no amplified instrument is involved lends an organic quality to the collective sound that is only magnified by the superb recording quality.