Saxophonist and clarinetist Jimmy Giuffre was a first rate innovator who restlessly reinvented his art without losing its signature character. Despite leaving behind a large recorded legacy Giuffre remains far from being a household name known mostly in hardcore jazz aficionado circles.
In 2012 producer Zev Feldman of Elemental Music came across two unreleased Guiffre tapes from 1965. Both were cut in New York at, now defunct, venues. Feldman was taken by the freedom of the music and the sense of adventure that imbued it A year and half later he released a sumptuously designed two CD set entitled Jimmy Giuffre 3 & 4 New York Concerts. Each concert gets its own disc and the informative booklet contains rare photos and essays by Feldman, Giuffre's widow Juanita, the engineer George Klabin, guitarist Jim Hall, pianist Paul Bley and writers Phillip Carles and Bob Blumenthal.
How about the content? Sophisticated yet unfettered improvisations mark the intriguing and unique Giuffre compositions and his interpretation of altoist Ornette Coleman's "Crossroads." This latter features Giuffre's agile, resonating clarinet rising and falling in thrilling and provocative spontaneity over bassist Richard Davis' fast, con arco phrases and drummer Joe Chambers' explosive beat clusters.
The trio session was captured on September 3rd at Judson Hall and finds Giuffre alternating between tenor sax and clarinet. His melodic and simultaneously free wheeling "Drive" opens with his tenor's buttery and thick tone gliding over the rhythmic embellishments of his band mates. Giuffre's haunting and contemplative duet with Davis follows adding an aura of mystery before a fiery, raw group play is let loose. The track alternates between a quiet, cerebral mood and passionate fury. Giuffre's honks and muffled wail bounce off Davis' explorative, pensive bowing as Chambers' percolating rumble pushes towards the volatile conclusion with its delightful dissonance.
The strong camaraderie among the three men makes them seamlessly blend individual ideas into a collective expression. "Qaudrangle" for instance is a three-way stream of consciousness conversation with Giuffre's poetic clarinet, Davis' expectant pizzicato and Chambers' intricate and angular thuds and thrums. A strong spiritual undercurrent leads to the composite "scream" that powerfully ends the tune.
"Qaudrangle" is one of the pieces that also appear on the quartet date from May 18th at Wollman Auditorium at Columbia University. Its earlier incarnation is more melodic with equally heady extemporizations. The anticipatory ambience is intricately built and the ardent ire is more clearly articulated. Pianist Don Friedman pelts the melody with angry downpour of notes while Chambers' kit bursts thunderously into the spotlight.
Elegant emotion and stimulating eruditeness coexist through out both albums. The bluesy "Cry, Want" opens with Giuffre's moaning clarinet that builds intricately woven captivating adlib lines around the main theme. His elegiac and dramatic dialogue with Friedman evolves over bassist Barre Phillips echoing reverberations and Chambers shuffling brushes. Dark and mystical conversations fade in out as do Friedman's atonal and intriguing soliloquy and Giuffre's melancholic, longing song. Phillips' plucked strings and Chambers rebounding strikes with carefully and ominously placed silent pauses usher in the soulful coda.
A wrongfully under-recognized genius Giuffre still sounds vibrant and relevant even over the span of a half-century. These newly discovered gems will hopefully help music lovers rediscover his compelling and singular oeuvre.
Disc1: Syncopate; Intro; Crossroads; Drive; Quadrangle; Angles.
Disc 2: Syncopate; Quadrangle; Three Bars In One; Cry, Want; Angles; Drive.
Jimmy Giuffre: tenor sax, clarinet; Joe Chambers: drums; Richard Davis: bass (Disc 1); Barre
Philips: bass (Disc 2); Don Friedman: piano (Disc 2).
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