Memorable Meetings: Jim Hall

By Joe Alterman, 11/21/2010

I was crossing 5th avenue at 12th street the other day when I noticed an old man walking his dog very slowly, hunched over quite a bit. As I got closer, I noticed that that man was jazz guitar great Jim Hall. 

He was stopped for a moment, so I walked over and said hey. We ended up talking for quite a while and were having a nice conversation (he introduced my to his dog, Django), joking around a bit. He asked me if I'd like to see something funny. 

We were standing very near to the New School University's Jazz Building and we saw a student with a bass coming towards us. 

Jim looked at me and said, "I've had spine troubles recently - people don't really recognize me anymore." 

He laughed, went up to the bass player and asked, "Excuse me - Is that a walking bass?" 

The kid gave him a dirty look and continued on his way. Jim looked at me and we both started laughing. Through his laughter, he said, "I always do that. I think it's pretty funny. They just think I'm the dirty old man now, haha." 

He was such a pleasant guy and it was such a joy to spend a few moments with him, one of my heroes.

Sidenote: A few years after this took place, a bass player friend who I told this story to called me one day to tell me the Mr. Hall had just pulled the same prank on him - hah!