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Premiered on May 28, 2010, The Serpent Speaks by James Hall, is a composition for jazz sextet + two actors, setting Robert Siegel's poem of the same name. The piece reflects on the fall of man in Genesis 3.

Genesis 3

The Serpent Speaks


James Hall


Music by James Hall
Text by Robert Siegel
Musicians: Emily Clare Zempel, voice; Jonathan Roberts, voice; Jacob Teichroew, saxophone; James Hall, trombone; Ryan Ferreira, guitar; Ike Sturm, bass; Ziv Ravitz, drumset; Mike Truesdell, percussion
Venue: St. Peter Church, Manhattan
Poster design by Christopher Domig
Artist Location: Brooklyn, New York

Curated by: 

Jonathon Roberts


Image by Giorgio Trovato

Primary Scripture

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I first read Robert Siegel's The Serpent Speaks in 2007, as my love of poetry was just being sparked. Though I was immediately interested in setting the poem to music, it wasn't until receiving a Fellowship at the Trinity Forum Academy that I had the time and resources I needed to realize the project.

My setting of The Serpent Speaks blurs distinctions between composition and improvisation using a mixture of verbal cues; traditional, and non-traditional notation. The style blends free and contemporary modal jazz with spoken word.

Spark Notes

The Artist's Reflection

James Hall is a trombonist and composer from Nebraska based in New York City. A versatile musician, his projects have spanned jazz, classical, latin, and popular music in the US and Europe.

As a composer and bandleader, James was named a finalist in the ASCAP Morton Gould Young Composer Competition, won three ASCAPlus Awards for composition, and was a featured performer/composer at the 2012 Chelsea Music Festival. As trombonist in Williamsburg Salsa Orchestra, he has performed at B.B. Kings', S.O.B's, MassMOCA, The Kennedy Center, The Blue Note Jazz Festival, and has appeared in the pages of Rolling Stone Magazine. He has appeared on several recordings with Postmodern Jukebox, with whom he has toured Europe and the US. James' trombone playing earned third place, runner-up, and honorable mention in the Antti Rissanen, J.J. Johnson, and Carl Fontana International Jazz Trombone Competitions, respectively.

James' first CD as a composer/bandleader was released in October 2013. Entitled "Soon We Will Not Be Here" by James Hall Thousand Rooms Quartet, the body of work sets contemporary poems by NYC-based poets to 3rd-stream chamber music. His sophomore release, "Lattice," is currently in post-production.

James holds degrees from the Lawrence Conservatory of Music in Wisconsin and Aaron Copland School of Music in New York. His teachers have included Luis Bonilla, Hal Crook, Michael Dease, Nick Keelan, Ed Neumeister, and Fred Sturm.

Photo by Bill Wadman.

James Hall

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