Lin Halliday united the Northside jazz scene by living the jazz life a la Bix. He went from DeQueen, Arkansas to literally coast to coast but interrupted a hectic early career, which included a Roulette session with Maynard Ferguson, and later jobs with Louie Bellson and Philly Joe Jones, until he lost his cabaret card and left New York for good. In c.1966 he straightened out, got married, raised a daughter and worked regularly as a studio musician and at club dates in Nashville. When his wife passed away he moved back to Chicago in 1980 where he became a fixture at the curious little bar called Get Me High.
The High was a hangout for musicians who played for the door. It was visited by many visiting jazzmen and was Ira Sullivan's hang when he was in town. Jeff Parker, Ed Petersen, Brad Goode, Rob Mazurek, Jodie Christian, Paul Serrano, Malachi Thompson, Eric Alexander, Fareed Hacque, Rich Corpolongo,Merle Boley, George Bean, Mike Finnerty, Dan Shapera, Art Porter, Mike Smith, Dennis Carroll, Joe Iacco, George Fludas and Robert Barry were among the many Chicagoans who played there. Malachi recalls hearing Howard McGhee there. Other gigs at the Underground Wonder Bar, Andy's, etc. followed and when the High had to stop the music Dave Jemillo (whose contributions to the scene have never properly been credited) pitched in and presented regular Tuesday night jams with Lin at the Deja Vue.
To say that Lin believed in casual dress is an understatement &endash;- a situation that cost him a lot of work. His horn case was held together with a belt or a sashcord. His gaunt figure was beset with perpetual health problems and he spent quite a bit of time on crutches and/or in hospital. The last time I saw him was JRM's '98 Breakfast Jazz Brunch (held the Sunday of every Jazz Festival) He looked so healthy that I chewed him out for not bringing his mouthpece. But that was Lin.
I suppose the most amazing thing about Lin Halliday was that he made all his albums with one lonely tooth on his lower jaw to support his embrouchre &endash;and not many on top! He spoke of a Riverside date from his early years that was never completed, but he first appeared on Delmak in 1988 with Brad Goode on Shock Of The New (440) (produced by Dave Jemillo), then made three on his own with Ira Sullivan and Jodie Christian: Delayed Exposure (449), East Of The Sun (458), and Where Or When (468) before dualing with Eric Alexander on Stablemates (488). We put off more recording, after he finally got dentures, so that he could re-construct his chops. He achieved an even stronger sound than before but health problems prevented further recording except for a few solos on a session with vocalist Elizabeth Conant that will be released soon.
Lin always said his favorite session was recorded at Mike Smith's studio by drummer Tommy Kronquist, which Delmark has purchased and will issue shortly. I'm sorry Lin didn't live to see it released.
On the afternoon of Saturday, January 29, at Jemillo's Green Mill, a wake-tribute was held, organized by Bop Shop owner Kate Smith and Elizabeth, and Delmark's new jazz promoperson Alana Rocklin. There were testimonials by many of the musicians who knew him. The most impressive were often given by people whom I haven't heard speak publicly: bassist Dennis Carroll, George Fludas, fellow reedman Jeff Vega and Brad Goode (who had made the trip in lousy weather from Cincinatti where he had a gig that same night). Of course all these folks played, as did Andy Goodrich, Fareed Hacque, and more. Videos of Lin, including the sit-in with Eric Alexander at the Bop Shop, were also played.
I was late getting to the shop that day. -Bob Koester