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Reviewers: Tony Augarde [Editor], Steve Arloff, Nick Barnard, Pierre Giroux, Don Mather, James Poore, Glyn Pursglove, George Stacy, Bert Thompson, Sam Webster, Jonathan Woolf



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JIMMY GIUFFRE

Three Classic Albums Plus:
Second Set

Avid AMSC 1103

 

 

CD1

7 Pieces

  1. Happy Man

  2. Lovely Willow

  3. Song of the Wind

  4. Princess

  5. The Story

  6. The Little Melody

  7. Time Machine

Jimmy Giuffre – Clarinet, tenor sax, baritone sax

Jim Hall – Guitar

Red Mitchell - Bass

Ad Lib

  1. I Got Those Blues

  2. I’m Old Fashioned

  3. I Hear Red

  4. The Boy Next Door

Jimmy Giuffre – Clarinet, tenor sax

Jimmy Rowles – Piano

Red Mitchell – Bass

Lawrence Marable – Drums

CD2

Ad Lib

  1. Stella By Starlight

  2. Problems

Jimmy Giuffre – Clarinet, tenor sax

Jimmy Rowles – Piano

Red Mitchell – Bass

Lawrence Marable – Drums

In Person

  1. The Quiet Time

  2. The Crab

  3. My Funny Valentine

  4. Wee See

  5. What’s New

  6. Two for Timbuctu

Jimmy Giuffre – Clarinet, tenor sax

Jim Hall – Guitar

Buell Neidlinger – Bass

Billy Osborne - Drums

The Four Brothers Sound

  1. Four Brothers

  2. Ode to Switzerland

  3. Blues in the Barn

Jimmy Giuffre – Tenor sax, overdubbed

Bob Brookmeyer – Piano

Jim Hall - Guitar

 

The late Jimmy Giuffre (he died in 2008) was an accomplished and versatile jazz musician, arranger and composer. He was also a dedicated experimentalist when it came to his music, with his c.v. including experience with big bands, in West Coast groups such as The Lighthouse All Stars, in what he designated ‘folk-jazz’, in avant-garde, almost unclassifiable, settings and latterly, even in the sphere of jazz-rock. For many, he is primarily identified with his big band standard for reeds Four Brothers, as performed by The Woody Herman Second Herd (1947 – 49), but also with a memorable appearance, featuring his trio, at the 1958 Newport Jazz Festival, playing The Train and the River, immortalised in the Jazz on a Summers Day documentary. What, then, should be made of these discs, consisting of three complete albums with three tracks taken from a fourth, and spanning the period 1958 – 1960?

CD1 7 Pieces/ Ad Lib

The first album finds Giuffre playing variously, clarinet, tenor and baritone saxophone, with Jim Hall on guitar and Red Mitchell on bass.Happy Man features funky clarinet from Giuffre, solid bass from Mitchell and mellow, inventive guitar from Hall. It swings, but gently. Lovely Willow is a moody number with Giuffre on tenor this time, Mitchell again laying down a steady bass line and producing some expressive solo work complimented by Jim Hall’s relaxed playing. The overall effect is hypnotic. Some lovers of jazz may demand more red meat but, in its own way, this hits the spot. Song of the Wind is faster and livelier altogether. Stereotypically West Coast, the sound is almost jaunty. Princess begins pensively with Giuffre and hardly changes gear throughout – a thoroughly wistful piece. The Story has a perky start, then a delicate Jim Hall solo has the effect of slowing everything down. The tune becomes sombre – Giuffre’s tenor engaging in conversation with Mitchell’s resonant bass. The whole track suddenly returns to life with a reprise of the opening theme. The Little Melody has Giuffre on clarinet. It has to be said that the pleasures of listening to Giuffre and company are not always obvious but are rewarding. There is some beautiful guitar/bass interplay here, Mitchell in particular, shining. The piece has an especially interesting conclusion, unpredictable and prolonged. Time Machine finds Giuffre actually swinging along merrily, with punctuation from Hall and a muscular solo from Mitchell.

But, if the first of these albums has its moments, the highlight of the package is the second, namely Ad Lib. Ted Gioia writes in his definitive work, West Coast Jazz, on Giuffre’s playing on Ad Lib as ‘a revelation’ and as ‘every bit as enjoyable as it is unexpected’, citing the influence of Sonny Rollins, no less. On Ad Lib, The Jimmy Giuffre 4 has Jimmy Rowles on piano, Mitchell once more on bass and Lawrence Marable on drums. Recorded the same month (January 1959) as 7 Pieces, it seems to come from a different planet. I Got Those Blues has Giuffre swinging along on a tenor and blowing freely. It is hard to recognise the same musician at work, when contrasted with some of his more inhibited playing elsewhere. The rhythm section moves things along nicely and Rowles is dependable as ever. I’m Old Fashioned has a melodic piano introduction then Giuffre picks up the theme before improvising on it. This is very listenable – Rowles, Mitchell and Giuffre all contribute excellent solos and Marable, as on the previous track, briskly but unobtrusively plays his part. I Hear Red has an exceptional Giuffre on clarinet, supportive drumming from Marable – Giuffre describes him as ‘smooth as glass’, nimble piano from Rowles and, fittingly, a solo from Mitchell. The Boy Next Door, another standard, has a drum intro quickly followed by Guiffre on tenor, smoothly navigating his way around the tune, Rowles providing a sensitive solo and Mitchell, as always, working his dextrous magic.

CD2 Ad Lib (continued)/ In Person/The Four Brothers Sound

The final two tracks of Ad Lib open the second CD. Stella By Starlight features Giuffre, on clarinet and in more extravert form than usual on this instrument, and a resounding bass line, with Rowles, at first, more subdued than usual before becoming more expansive. Problems, one of numerous Giuffre originals on the two discs contains brisk and robust tenor playing from Giuffre, propelled by Mitchell’s inventive bass and Marable’s percussive drumming.

Next up are tracks from In Person, an album by The Jimmy Giuffre Quartet. Jim Hall returns to the fold on this one but Buell Neidlinger is on bass and Billy Osborne, drums. The Quiet Time has an appealing and gently swinging theme, fine bass playing from Neidlinger, a relaxed performance from Giuffre while Jim Hall chips in with a typically fluent solo. The drumming is on the mark, too. Nine minutes just glide by. On The Crab, Giuffre plays tenor with genuine attack on this straight-ahead number, supported by a busy rhythm section. That wonderful Richard Rodgers tune My Funny Valentine is acceptably played with Giuffre’s bluesy, at times hard-edged, clarinet, Hall prominent, nimble drumming, discreet bass. Theolonius Monk’s Wee See is a typically oblique Monk composition, delivered briskly by all concerned with Giuffre on tenor and Hall swinging along with aplomb. What’s New has a three in the morning feel about it. This is a poignant version of a beautiful song, plaintively played by Giuffre on clarinet and by Hall. Nice bass solo, too. Two for Timbuctu, the final track from In Person, again has Giuffre vigorously leading from the front on tenor but interacting well with Hall, in particular.

The last three tracks are curiosities, coming as they do from The Four Brothers Sound where Giuffre’s interest in experiment, both in arranging and in multi-tracking, is evident. First, we have Giuffre’s stand-out composition Four Brothers – something of a novelty here, with four tenors (all of them Giuffre) multi-recorded and with Bob Brookmeyer on piano. Still, nothing can diminish the impact of this familiar classic. Ode to Switzerland is an oddity. Described as a ‘mood’ piece, we are told that ‘it is scored in counterpoint for the tenor, presenting close but not parallel voicing’. Blues in the Barn again features multi-tracking. For me, it is the most appealing of the three tracks from this particular album, Giuffre jaunty and with more of a swing and Brookmeyer on piano, Hall on guitar, helping it deliver ‘what it says on the tin’ (i.e. blues).

All in all, this double CD represents excellent value. It is worth having for Ad Lib alone – cherry pick from the rest if you have to. It was good to be reminded of Giuffre’s range and of the excellence of the other musicians around him, especially the redoubtable Red Mitchell.

James Poore



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