One year Jim Hall was a guest artist at the now defunct National Guitar Workshop. I taught for the NGW at the time and traveled to Connecticut to hear Jim’s Masterclass. But before I get too ahead of myself, about twelve years prior, Jim was in Toronto (where I then lived) doing a duo gig with Don Thompson on bass. I later ended up performing a few times with Don myself and it was always a musical treat and a lot of fun. Don played with two of my guitar heroes, Jim AND Lenny Breau!
I was young and still in college. I timidly approached Jim for a lesson while he was in town. He explained that he would love to, but just wouldn’t have time while visiting friends during his short stay. I figured he was just brushing me off. He must have sensed that. The next thing I see him doing is rummaging through his guitar case.
After 10 seconds or so he pulls out an empty envelope. “Here, right down your address on this.” “When I get back home I’ll send you a copy of my book.” He said after ripping off a chunk and handed to me. Don Thompson added that it was in fact a “really good book.” Again I thought that he was simply brushing me off. Yeah right. “He won’t send me a book.” I thought. But he did! About 2 or 3 month’s later, a book arrived in the mail. As promised. Free of charge, and signed.
He wrote “Adam—Sorry this took so long, but I hope it’s of some use to you. Best of luck with your music!” Signed, Jim Hall Aug 6, ’92. Needless to say I was tickled pink! What a nice guy!! What a Mensch!!!
Now, back to Jim at the guitar workshop. After Jim’s performance and while him and his wife, Jane, were getting ready to make the trip back to NYC, I stopped and said hello. I told him of the story above and thanked him for sending that book all those years ago. He remembered doing that, and he even remembered my name! So I handed him a copy of my debut CD, Fun City, and I said something to the effect that it was not equally reciprocal in value for his gift and generosity from years past. But then something surreal happened. His face lit up and he was genuinely touched. Then said “Oh wow! Thanks man.” There was an exchange of asking how Don Thompson was, plus a few various names including guitarist Ed Bickert (another big influence). Then thanked me again, wished me luck with my career, and got in the passenger seat and drove off.
Jim was cool! He was one of the nicest guys you’d ever want to meet. Not only did Jim influence me musically, but I think he profoundly influenced how I interact with people who talk to me at one of my gigs. If Jim is that nice than I can be too. I will always think of Jim with fondness and great respect.
I tried to set up private lessons with Jim a few years ago. I had only been living in New York for a couple of years at that point. I was in contact with his daughter and we were communicating back and forth a little bit with regards to setting something up. Unfortunately, Jim passed away right around that time. Even though I never actually got to study with him, I did learn and dissect a couple of is solos and learned a lot from him in that way later on in life while I was studying for my masters degree at Western Michigan University, 2007-2009. But in retrospect, I also learned how important it is to be down to earth, grounded, to be genuine, and to be nice to people. I bet there are countless stories like this from people all over the world who had encounters with Jim—this is just mine. We will all miss Jim Hall.
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