In Memoriam: Jimmy Giuffre (1921-2008)
He was a remarkable man. He composed most of the material that the Lighthouse group played in the early '50s. In an album, the first we ever did in the Lighthouse (Early Days, Vol. 1) with Shorty Rogers, Art Pepper, Shelly Mannewe recorded most of his tunes then. He of course wrote "Four Brothers" for Woody Herman and for me he wrote "Four Others." We played "Four Brothers" every night. That was so wonderful, coming out of the roaring Herman band. It meant a lot to me because I came from the Kenton era, from that side. Coming from him, the Herman sideI felt I had a more complete view of the period. When both leaders decided they wanted a break, their band members were stranded in the LA area and because of the musicians union they couldn't take a steady job. They had to work for two months to get a regular card, but because Jimmy and them were working for me at the Lighthouse, the first two months allowed them to get a Local 47 card. That was the real reason Jimmy first started working for me and it was a real pleasure to work with him. One thing that Giuffre did, that seemed to me to be his most valuable contribution, is that he tied the East and West Coasts together because he fit on both sides. He projected material for both sides. And he was never the kind of guy that was looking for applause. He seemed to live on the fact that he knew what he was doing and he was pleasing himself with his work.
HOWARD RUMSEY, Bassist
I met Jimmy in 1986, when Andre Jaume came to study with him at his home. We had dinner, listened to some music and it was then that I asked about "The Train and The River." When I mentioned how much I loved this composition, a sparkle came in his eye and he disappeared, returning with the original manuscripts. He said the music heard on Jazz on a Summer's Day was only a part of this larger work. Uniquely, Andre Jaume, Raymond Boni and I had been playing together in a trio for some time, with instrumentation similar to Jimmy's trio with Bob Brookmeyer and Jim Hall. This was not something we planned, it was just so. To celebrate his 70th birthday, we decided to make a recording of some of Jimmy's tunes, add some of our originals dedicated to him and present it to him (Impressions of Jimmy Giuffre). A year later Jimmy and Andre invited me to join them on their duo date River Station, for one of the pieces. As we were at dinner just before the session, Jimmy asked what instrument I intended to play and I replied, "valve trombone." There again came the sparkle in his eye.
JOE MCPHEE, Multi-instrumentalist
From 1961-63, Jimmy Giuffre elevated the role of the clarinet in jazz to its former status in the glory years of the Big Band Era. I was one of those "younger musicians" in 1992 that listened with a "sense of awe" (New York Times) to ECM's re-release of 1961a pairing of the albums, Fusion and Thesisthat Giuffre recorded with Paul Bley and Steve Swallow. As a "young" clarinetist I sought out models to emulate, a rare thing to find in the early '90s. Along with John Carter, Giuffre paved the way for musicians like me to persevere with the instrument in a creative environment. His virtuoso playing, exquisite tone and adventurous compositional sense was everything one could ask for from a role model.
FRANCOIS HOULE, Clarinetist
It was such an honor and a privilege to have not only known you but also had the opportunity to do some music together. Your embodiment of authenticity, creative naturalness, musical integrity, playfulness and good humor will continue for me as a constant source of inspiration.
GARY PEACOCK, Bassist
James is a prince. He came up to me at a club in the villagethe Five Spotwhen I was playing with Oliver Nelson, and he asked me if I would play and record with him. That was how we first met. It was then I agreed to join his band. I left him to go with Sonny Rollins for a year, but other than that we've been in regular contact. And I could only leave with his consenthe had first call. For him, the proof of musicians is to play better tomorrow than you did yesterday. I remember we once did a concert outdoors in an Italian amphitheatera miniature Coliseumwith people sitting on layers of stone. Giuffre showed up and when we were doing the sound check, he distributed the written music of his compositions. Well, a Shakespearean wind rose up and blew all of Giuffre's written music all over the amphitheater! He took it as a sign that we wouldn't need written music any longer and we never turned a page from that point on.
PAUL BLEY, Pianist