Edmond Hall: clarinetist

Edmond Blainey Hall: born May 15, 1901 in Reserve, LA; died: Feb. 11, 1967 in Cambridge, MA

    Born near New Orleans and identified with its rich jazz clarinet tradition, Edmond Hall spent a significant part of his later career in Boston. Hall’s travels throughout the south preceded his 1929 arrival in New York, where he played with the Claude Hopkins Orchestra. For nearly two decades he balanced long stays at Café Society with recordings accompanying Billie Holiday, Red Allen and Teddy Wilson. The first date he led was for Blue Note in 1941 and featured “The Edmond Hall Celeste Quartet” with Meade Lux Lewis on celeste and Charlie Christian on guitar. This signaled a change from his traditional New Orleans roots to a swing style influenced by Benny Goodman. Although influenced by Goodman, Hall maintained his personal sound and approach to the instrument.

    In 1948 Hall moved to Boston and spent the eighteen months at the Savoy, initially replacing Bob Wilber but soon leading the band. At this time he partnered with pianist/entrepreneur George Wein, organizing numerous jazz concerts in the area. After resuming his musical travels (including long associations with Eddie Condon and Louis Armstrong during the 1950s), Hall and his wife Winnie moved to Ghana, hoping to start a music school. That plan failed and, they returned to New York where in 1960 Hall began a regular schedule of European tours.

    In 1964 the Halls settled permanently in Cambridge. Engagements at the Village Green (Danvers), Connolly’s (Roxbury), Bovi’s Tavern (Providence) and the South Shore Jazz Festival (Milton) alternated with both national and international tours. A favorite of audiences and musicians in New England, Hall brought a sense of history and professionalism to the region and influenced young musicians such as Dick Creeden, Tony Tomasso and Porky Cohen.

    –John Clark

Edmond Hall

Edmond Hall (photo by Duncan Scheid)