New Verve LPRs: Klemmer, Getz, Giuffre, Hodges & Mulligan
John Klemmer came on the scene a little too late for the heyday of jazz, but Involvement, his debut as a leader, shows an artist dedicated to keeping the Coltrane style in all its permutations alive and kicking. From the lightning quick riffs and rapid fire changes of 'Later With Them Woes' to the brooding, modal "My Blues", Klemmer asserts himself as a gifted improviser, even though he makes no major advances on the style of his idol. Those tracks feature a quartet of musicians who have similar aspirations in mind, especially pianist Jodie Christian who is more than capable of handling either the hot-blooded tempos or the more atmospheric exercises. The other quartet, featuring Sam Thomas on guitar instead of Christian, hints at another direction that Klemmer would soon follow for good. 'Passion Food' is a beautifully modern original with a Latin backbone that shows Klemmer's compositional gifts. On the other hand, 'Will 'n' Jug' contains glimpses of the slick guitar funk that would become prevalent in a few years (and that would be run into the ground by the time the eighties were over). Involvement, although not a fantastic record, shows that Klemmer had a lot of promise as an artist that would indeed develop over the years as he approached more commercial avenues. However, most of those records remain out of print.
At the time of Reflections Stan Getz was in his prime artistically and commercially; both Focus (his best album) and Getz/Gilberto (his most popular album) preceded this recording. Thus the fact that Reflections is a bit of a letdown is perhaps inevitable. However, it is still a respectable, yet commercial effort, albeit one that will forever rank behind Getz' other Verve work. Claus Ogerman (who provided charts for Antonio Carlos Jobim's classic Verve album) supplies syrupy orchestrations on the opening two numbers that suit Getz's passionate and melodic playing just fine, especially on 'Moonlight in Vermont', which harbors a sentimentalism that the classic Johnny Smith recording wasn't quite able to achieve. The rest of the album features Lalo Schifrin's Latin-flavored charts that are decidedly more upbeat and modern and force Getz to work a little harder (in an amusing bit from the liners, Getz predicts that Schifrin 'has a huge future writing film scores'.) The only misfire is the addition of a choir on a few of Schifrin's numbers, a move which although in keeping with the times, sounds dated today and almost derails a revisit to the classic 'Early Autumn'. Perhaps the biggest accomplishment from all involved is that a cover of Dylan's 'Blowin' in the Wind' is a pleasant reading that avoids sounding overly commercial. Reflections is an enjoyable sax and strings record that will appease fans of Getz who have yet to acquire it. However, everyone else will probably be more satisfied purchasing Getz's other work for Verve.
The Easy Way
The Jimmy Giuffre 3
No one could ever accuse Jimmy Giuffre of being a predictable musician. After a promising start as an arranger and musician in West Coast outfits with Woody Herman and Howard Rumsey, Giuffre began to explore different textures and influences on his own, forsaking popular success along the way. Most notably Giuffre experimented with the trio format; in its earliest form, this included Jim Hall on guitar and either a bassist or Bob Brookmeyer on trombone instead of the usual piano and drums. Later Giuffre introduced another trio with Paul Bley on piano and Steve Swallow on bass and recorded what many consider to be his masterwork, Free Fall. However, most of Giuffre's trio recordings aren't readily available, which makes the appearance of The Easy Way a welcome reissue. Giuffre has always had a knack for recasting standards to fit his unique vision, and 'Mack the Knife' and 'Come Rain or Come Shine' are perfect examples of his approach. However, the originals are where the trio really shows off its imagination, from the brief, impressionistic 'A Dream' and 'Montage' to the bluesy walking bass and comping of 'Ray's Theme'. Giuffre's sullen 'The Easy Way' and Hall's aptly-titled 'Careful' force some inspired improvising from the trio, who display a great deal of sympathy and sophistication in their interaction. Although The Easy Way is consistently enjoyable throughout, there's a hint of intellectualism here that has always been apparent in Giuffre's work, one that may turn some away. At any rate, Giuffre is an important artist whose work deserves a listen, and The Easy Way is an excellent place to begin.
Gerry Mulligan Meets Johnny Hodges