He possessed a sense of adventure that made his solos seem fresh, as though they were being invented at the moment, and in large part they were. Hall’s subtle radicalism, was, like Bill Eva’s piano, centered on harmonic coloration and invention instead of the usual scalar be-bop-isms that became typical of the music, particularly among guitarists.
In the early stages of his career he developed a reputation as a significant stylist during his tenure with The Jimmy Giuffre trio and Art Farmer's band. In one of the most demanding gigs for any guitarist, Hall joined Sonny Rollins comeback group following Sonny's much publicized sabbatical from the jazz scene. He became an integral part of one of Rollins greatest records “The Bridge.” Both men took some heat for having a guitar player with the wrong pigmentation in the band, with most of the blow-back coming from musicians of "Color" who thought Sonny should keep it pure.
Thankfully, Rollins stuck by his decision, even if it was for only one record.
It's remarkable how much things can change in fifty years, but still remain the same.
Hall was a perfect foil for Sonny's extended improvisations and re-harmonization. His unique chord-voicing and subtlety opened up the sound of the band, leaving plenty of room for Rollins to play, unimpeded by the more orchestral nature of the piano. Gerry Mulligan used a piano-less trio, at about the same time for similar reasons. Either way, the band is preserved on record and film, a rarity for the period.
You can watch as well as listen to Hall’s unhurried approach when negotiating the complex changes taken at tempos that would intimidate the hell out of most musicians. It's hard to imagine that he wasn't awed by it all. If he was, he appears to deal with it with a Zen-like cool. He simply takes his time and chooses not to give in to the impulse to play in a way that is more about dexterity than creativity. In doing so he points the way for succeeding generations of guitarists uninterested in cutting heads as a primary method of musical communication.
Hall's musical demeanor gave birth to a whole school of guitarists that used his approach as a template. Pat Metheny and John Abercrombie were just two of his better known disciples. Remarkably, he stayed in the vanguard of jazz for some sixty years, remaining relevant as a player even as styles changed and gave way to supersaturated displays of virtuosity. He was, perhaps, the last of the greatest generation of jazz guitarists, which included Wes Montgomery, Tal Farlow, Joe Pass, Barney Kessel, Chuck Wayne and too many others to list without a much, much longer article. Only Kenny Burrell, I believe, remains active, still gigging and teaching at the university level.
There’s a wealth of recordings and videotaped material to keep his music alive. His many acolytes remain as well, preaching his gospel of humor, subtlety and intelligence, traits that are rare among the six string brethren. They are, however, abundant in his work.
You could spend a lifetime absorbing his lessons—and I have little doubt that will be the case for generations to come. In terms of legacy, I'm not sure any musician could ask for more.