Here are two duet albums, both recorded live within two years of each other between a pair of giants: bassist Ron Carter and guitarist Jim Hall. Hall, along with his former bandmates Jimmy Giuffre
and the late Paul Desmond
, is the consummate melodic improviser, and Carter, despite his tenures with Rollins and Coltrane, is adept at moving from one musical space to another -- either intervalically, modally, or stylistically -- without difficulty. The intimate interplay found on both Live at the Village West
and its successor, 1984's Telephone
(as in two-way conversation), is nothing short of remarkable. The setup is between two front line instrumentalists who are both rhythmnatists in their own right. Hall is a consummate rhythm guitarist and he gets a chance to display it on tunes such as "Down From Antigua," "Laverne Walk," "Indian Summer," and "Two's Blues." Carter, who is known for his unwavering rhythmic commitment, is deft as a lead man in such an intimate setting. Check out his solos on "Bag's Groove" and "Alone Together." Hall, however, is the greatest surprise. Despite the fact that this is, as one would expect, a fairly laid-back date, his intricacy of attack and his lofty, harmonic scalar heights are simply astonishing. In his solo ascent on Carter's "Telephone," he goes inside the rhythm and harmony of the tune and exchanges them interval by interval. On "St. Thomas" from the Village West album, he cops the three-string lead pattern he's so famous for, inverts the harmony and melody, and builds a new series of changes in the middle of the break. The gorgeous low-key swinging found here in this reissue proves one thing for sure -- that these two dates should have always been packaged together. These are indispensable guitar and bass duets by two masters of intimate musical discourse.