Fame can be fickle, meaning that someone like Jimmy Giuffre can fade into relative obscurity, remembered and appreciated by fellow musicians and a few hardcore jazz fans, while never having reached into the broader public consciousness in any measurable way.
As a multi-reed artist, Giuffre was certainly one of the most original and creative visionary forces in jazz. Perhaps Giuffre's best known ensemble was his first: a combo that was unorthodox in its day, featuring Giuffre, Jim Hall
on guitar, and one of several bass players. A highlight of this combo, 7 Pieces
(Verve, 1959), has been reissued with the addition of some never-before-heard live material. It all adds up to a devilishly good reminder of why Giuffre was such a great musician.
This trio must have seemed a little far out in the late fifties. The tuneswith no drums and therefore no steady beatare softly lyrical, meandering creations with discernible melodies that have to be followed for awhile before they fully resolve. Even on something as simple as a blues, like the opening "Happy Man," the trio breaks down the form with instrumental solo interludes and some light call-and-response. "The Little Melody" is representative, beginning with a repeated statement for a few bars, then pausing,and finally restarting with improvisation, but at a greatly reduced tempo. It wanders for awhile, drifting and flowing about, seemingly aimlessly, barely pinned to the melody before recapitulating for its close. It's a sparse track, with a light, free flowing set of ideas that are hard to resist.
The reissue contains four additional tracks, recorded live in Rome in 1959. For a live session from that era, these monaural tracks are exceptionally well-recorded, rivalingif not exceedingthe sound quality of the studio tracks. These tunes swing a little harder, perhaps because of the face-to- face interaction with the audience, and include the up-tempo "Four Brothers," which Giuffre wrote for Woody Herman
's orchestra earlier in his career. Buddy Clark
slams out a pulsing bass line that fulfills both his own role and the portion that would ordinarily be handled by the drums.The addition of what is essentially a bebop line breaks the mold of the record, but within the trio context it simply adds another dimension to Giuffre's work, showing a glint of where he began his musical adventure. 7 pieces
exemplifies the power of an artist who was willing to experiment with an unconventional lineup to create truly original, and enduringly good music.
Happy Man; Princess; Song of the Wind; Lovely Willow; The Little Melody;
The Story; Time Machine; Two Degrees East, Three Degrees West; Four
Brothers; Princess; Careful.
Jimmy Giuffre: clarinet, tenor, baritone saxophones; Jim Hall: guitar; Red Mitchell: bass (1-7); Buddy Clark: bass (8-11).