Thursday, April 8, 2010

Jimmy Giuffre

Jimmy Giuffre (clarinet, sax; b. 1921 - d. 2008)

The Texas born, Jimmy Giuffre is sometimes a mythical figure even amongst jazz fans. He was classically trianed on clarinet--learned and perfected counterpoint (harmonic structure of two different musical lines which function together) which would be make his work standout high and above many of his contemporaries.

With well over 30 albums to his credit, he is widely known for his pianoless/drumless trios from the 50s/60s. These groups were unprecedented and highly inventive (saxophonist Gerry Mulligan also had a pianoless quartet) are recorded a series influential albums over the span of 10 years. The trio feature Jim Hall (guitar) and Ralph Pena (bass) and later a second trio with Hall and Bobby Brookmyer (trombone). The two trios performed some absolutely beautiful folksy and blues influenced jazz sessions during the mid to later 50s.

The bulk of these are extremely hard to find individually but Jim Hall/Ralph Pena sessions can be found on a great import collection entitled, The Origial Studio Recordings (Gambit). This contains some stellar material including the wonderful "Train and The River". The Brookmyer sessions can be found on a very expensive boxed set, The Complete Capitol & Atlantic Recordings (Mosaic Records). This also includes some killer performances of "Blue Monk" and "Pickin' em Up and Layin' em Down". A later Giuffre trio featuring would create another influential trio with Paul Bley (piano) and Steve Swallow (bass) which would record series of even more influential records.

The most famous sets were 1961 (ECM) (aka the two albums Fusion and Thesis) and Free Form (Columbia). These were part of what Giuffre were early experiments in Free Jazz. Unlike what some would associate with Ornette Coleman, Eric Dolphy or even John Coltrane, these sessions were introspective yet adventurous for their use of space. It is a melodic session were Bley, Swallow and Giuffre each explore different aspects emotionally. This is a landmark recording in jazz history and well worth seeking out.

Giuffre would record and teach throughout the 70s and 80s but made a return to recording during the late 80s and 90s and even recorded two more sessions with Bley and Swallow which saw the three still in top form after a twenty year hiatus. Jimmy Giuffre's lineups may sound complete out of left-field for the uninitiated but when you hear them (jazz fan or not) you will be spellbound at how powerful and creative the groups could be.

1 comment:

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