Jazz Report calls Glen Hall "Canada's best kept secret." A multi-instrumentalist, composer, arranger and producer, Hall combines emotion, intelligence and sensuality in his internationally acclaimed recordings and his compelling live shows.
Hall is an uncompromising visionary on whose sonic adventures he has been joined by such luminaries as arranger-composer Gil Evans, percussion virtuosos Nexus and Trichy Sankaran, trombonist Roswell Rudd, pianist JoAnne Brackeen and a host of others. While having resonances as diverse as Charles Mingus, Frank Zappa, Karlheinz Stockhausen, Sonic Youth, Muddy Waters, Ornette Coleman, Patti Smith and Thelonious Monk, Hall's music bears the unique and unmistakable stamp of a singular individual. The Globe and Mail says he is "aggressively contemporary Hall has all the marks of an original mind."
Born during a tornado on August 7, 1950, in Winnipeg, Glen grew up in the musically broad-minded mid-western environment that was conducive to his creativity. He says that his first "instrument" was the shortwave radio his parents had in the basement: "I used to play the shortwave set and tune in to the music of the world on that set." This adventure later came back to him when be started working with the music of Stockhausen and his CD Hallucinations. It was watching Mahalia Jackson on the Ed Sullivan Show that first got Hall involved in music. Her emotional and spiritual power convinced him to investigate the potential of music as an outlet for his creative energies. He took up the guitar and harmonica in his early teens, playing the music of The Yardbirds, The Kinks, The Who, Jimi Hendrix, The Cream, various Motown artists and the Paul Butterfield Blues Band in a six piece rock group with the dubious name Ragnar and the Pagans.
At about this time he had a musical epiphany that changed the course of his life. A musician, Bob Mowbray, who played saxophone and flute and who used to sit with Hall's band, played him four recordings that still are influences on his music: Sonny Rollins' East Broadway Rundown and Sonny Meets Hawk, Rasaan Roland Kirk's I Talk With the Spirits and Archie Shepp's On This Night. Glen began to investigate jazz in a serious way and became a devotee of local guitar genius Lenny Breau whose trio members, Reg Kelln on drums and Ron Halldorsen on bass, he later hired for his own group. At this time he also began a longtime fascination with electronic and electro-acoustic music as well as world music. He absorbed the music of Edgar Varese, John Cage, Frank Zappa, Ali Akbar Khan and the Australian aborigines. He also began playing the flute, the first of many new instruments he would later adopt as his "voices" in his musical explorations.
Having decided on a career in literary scholarship, Hall began his university studies fully intent on becoming a professor of literature. But music kept calling, first in the form of a folk-country trio that featured his guitar skills and a jazz group called Undercurrent. It was at this time that Hall had another formative experience that forever altered his life. A friend suggested he go to a club that featured a Chicago-based musician, Tommy Ponce. He went and Ponce, a multi-instrumentalist who played piano, saxophone, flute, trumpet and valve trombone, invited him to sit in whenever he wanted. Hall played with Ponce four or five nights a week and developed a deeper understanding of the jazz idiom. At one point, noticing Hall's use of large leaps in his improvisations, Ponce asked him what he was trying to do. He said that he was using ideas from saxophonist Eric Dolphy. Ponce suggested that Hall should play the saxophone and that's just what he did.
Hall continued his education at university, deciding to write his thesis on William S. Burroughs cut-up technique. Another experiencesitting in with some of Duke Ellington's musicians had a profound impact on him. It was trumpeter Money Johnson who asked him what he intended to do with his life. When Hall said that he was probably going to teach literature, Johnson said, "Anybody can teach. You've got a talent. Don't waste it." While completing his thesis, he found that Burroughs wanted to rub out the word. Putting two and two together, Hall decided to abandon his career in literature. He applied to and was accepted by Berklee College of Music in Boston. He was there full-time for one year when one of his instructors, Robert Hores, known for his stern manner and seldom bestowed praise, told him, "You know enough now. Go out and play."