I learned of Jim Hall listening to his records with Bill Evans, and I’ve loved his work ever since. This whole album is a masterpiece, and those two are a match made in heaven. «Romain» is one of the best tunes in the album and Hall’s playing is flawless. In this weeks transcription, this amazing guitarist gives us a smooth lesson in melodic development applied to improvisation. As always, the full PDF is at the end of the page. Don’t forget to follow the blog on Instagram, and if you feel generous, buy me a beer for my hard work :).
Back to the transcription.
Context is always key, and Jim Hall knows it. He starts his solo with a simple melody that rests on the same pitch for the first three measures.
While being the same note, each one of them works in a different way depending on the chords that are being played. He’s also choosing overlapping chord tones, which makes it work even smoother. He repeats this shortly after.
Works like a charm. By the way, notice how he doesn’t avoid chord tones. I feel like a lot of jazz musicians avoid them and use tensions instead to sound more interesting (me included), but seeing so many jazz masters use them constantly as a default motivates me to think more simply when trying to make beautiful melodies.
Another resource Hall uses is voice leading to navigate chord changes. He establishes a motif based on small leaps and starts moving it around to fit the chord changes. The melodies land on, you guessed it, chord tones.
In measure 20, he briefly changes the harmonic context from a Cmin6 to a Cminb6 so he can take advantage of that downward, chromatic voice leading.
There’s many more beautiful moments during the transcription, and I highly recommend you checking it all out. As promised, here’s the PDF,