In Memoriam: Jimmy Giuffre (1921-2008)
PETE LEVIN, Keyboardist
Just being around Jimmy was wonderful because the feeling of his being was very high; he was very calm, with a burning intensity inside. He was one of the first people I knew who studied Zen, and he had a very Zen quality. He didn't speak a lot; he used no extra verbiage, just like how he played. He was a very special man, and a major influence.
PERRY ROBINSON, Clarinetist
Jimmy Giuffre taught me patience, in music and in life. He directed my attention to the smallest details of the music we played together, and smiled benignly on as I uncovered layers I hadn't suspected. I think I learned more about how to play my instrument from him than from any bassist. I won't forget the limitless faith he had that I'd learn what he needed me to know, a quality that made him a great bandleader and a cherished friend.
STEVE SWALLOW, Bassist
Sad loss for the world of music...hopefully, a peaceful ending for one of our gifted musicians. We were friends from the late '40s on. I talked him into leaving a clothing store position, where he was working to support a large family, and joining the Buddy Rich Band as tenor player and orchestrator... creating a new sound for Buddy...and late nights after the gig to complete writing the book. Soon after we reached New York, he wrote "Four Brothers" for Woody Herman's band and the rest is history. He wrote some wonderful, innovative material for my RCA The Jazz Workshop recording and also I remember some things he wrote for the Lee Konitz sax section album. He had a unique approach and will always be remembered for his dedication and endless energy to find new ways to express himself.
HAL MCKUSICK, Saxophonist
Jimmy Giuffre had a connection with music that bespoke great spiritual understanding. Pure, 'vibrational,' soothing, and intriguing, Jimmy made a music that defied categorization and generic branding. Was it jazz? Sort of. Was it chamber music? Kind of. I will leave it to academics and jazz scholars to surmise what exactly was happening on a technical level; I am happy with the smiles and the tears it continues to draw from me. Never one to deny the artistic impulse, Jimmy helped charter a creative path that many of us, myself included, still follow. We all have self-doubt about our choice to pursue a life of music, but all I have to do is listen to a few measures of Jimmy playing "Jesus Maria" and the feeling of my heart swelling as if it's about to break reminds me of the virtue of the struggle. Thank you Jimmy.
JEREMIAH CYMERMAN, Clarinetist
The main thing I got from Jimmy was a sense of purity and truth. We were beginning a rehearsal and I was tuning my bass. This was at the very beginning for me (1980-ish) since it was my upright bass, which I only played with him a year or so at the beginning and then again some at the end. Jimmy says to me, "What are you doing?" I said "I'm tuning up." Then Jimmy said, "Well it doesn't sound like music. Don't ever touch your instrument unless you intend to make music." I got his point, and I agree with him, that it is too easy to get in the habit of taking the easy way with music and just fooling around. Don't ever take music for granted. He didn't want anything to be habitual, not vibrato, not anything.
BOB NIESKE, Bassist