Jimmy Giuffre made waves in 1961-62 with the release of Fusion (Verve, 1961), Thesis (Verve, 1961) and Free Fall (Columbia, 1962). With pianist Paul Bley and a 20-year-old Steve Swallow on upright bass, the Third Stream innovator created the best music of his careertelepathic performances that continue to astound and inspire more than four decades later. As with so many great things however, the trio was short livedit would be thirty years before group that quietly rocked the jazz scene reunited.
The Life of a Trio: Saturday & Sunday documents the long-awaited 1989 reunion of Giuffre's remarkable group. Older, wiser and still stunningly in tune with each other, the threesome take up where they left off and the resulting double-disc of music is every bit as riveting as the original. Giuffre is playful yet reflective on "Black Ivory, the tones of his clarinet resonating over Bley's sweeping chords and strummed strings; out of a jaunting counterpoint his horn softly trills over a pulsing pedal from Bley, glissing to a bell-like high as the piano drops out: assured but vulnerable.
Both Bley and Swallow make remarkable contributions throughout the two sessions, pushing Giuffre into exciting territory before embarking on unaccompanied solos. "December is a doleful vehicle for Swallow's electric bass and the reflective mood he sets permeates the solo improvisations of Giuffre and Bley that follow. Sounding at times like a guitar, Swallow's playing is impeccablevirtuosic yet restrained.
Through all the solo and duo playing it's still, not surprisingly, the trio work that shines. Giuffre's soprano cuts through the dissonant cloud evoked by Bley and Swallow on "Sensing, meditating on a melodic fragment, soaring to the upper register before falling into lockstep with the piano and bass. The three make it clear that the life of a trio continues after the initial dispersion of its parts and that something great can always come of bringing together such like-minded souls.
Saturday: Clarinet Zone; Black Ivory; Owl Eyes; Endless Melody; Turns; Foreplay; We Agree; Clusters; December; Someone; Even Steven; By The Way. Sunday: Sensing; Monique; The Giant Guitar And The Black Stick; Industrial Suite;
Sanctuary Much; Tango Del Mar; The Hidden Voice; Mephisto; Where Were We?; Sweet Song; Scrambled Legs; Play Ball; Fallen Statue; Things; Two Singers; The Life Of A Trio.
Jimmy Giuffre: clarinet, soprano saxophone; Paul Bley: piano; Steve Swallow: electric bass.