The Jimmy Giuffre 3&4

New York Concerts
Elemental Music 5990425

Consisting of a dozen never-before-released tracks by master reedist Jimmy Giuffre (1921-2008), these 1965 trio and quartet selection fill a gap in his discography that lasted from the demise of his piano/bass/clarinet trio in the early 1960s to his reemergence with a fusion-styled band 10 years later. More than a historical curiosity though, the virile and committed soloing exhibited here by Giuffre on tenor saxophone and clarinet, seconded by the drumming of Joe Chambers on all selections, suggests that the reedman’s subsequent detour into full-time teaching robbed Jazz of additional examples of his constantly evolving style. What’s more New York Concerts shows that Giuffre’s flirtation with cerebral chamber-jazz was also over at the time. Seconded by Chamber and bassist Richard Davis on six tracks and the drummer along with pianist Don Friedman and bassist Barre Phillips on the other selections, Giuffre was in the processes of perfecting a new, hitherto unknown synthesis.

Recorded in concert, four months apart, the two-CD set offers two versions of his compositions, “Syncopate”, “Quadrangle” and “Angles”, documenting the ways in which he was shaping new conceptions. Just as importantly his inclusion of Ornette Coleman’s “Crossroads” and recasting his own “Cry, Want” so that it was synched more closely to the Blues not chamber sounds, confirms that this was another transitional period. Product of the Big Band era – he wrote “Four Brothers” for Woody Herman’s band – Giuffre, who was involved with experimental nearly pulse-less music in the early 1950s, had already moved through so-called Cool and Folk Jazz, studio work and composed themes tinged with so-called classical inferences. While his work on this set wouldn’t have slotted him into the New Thing at that time, Friedman’s cradling tremolo output and Phillips’ positioned thumps jaggedly second Giuffre’s unexpected raunchy reading of “Cry, Want”. Furthermore while the drummer sticks to more traditional syncopation on the Coleman line, Davis’ angled spiccato is contemporary for its time; and one can almost feel the tension as Giuffre’s dyspeptic , double-tongued clarinet solo is torn between one era and another.

Even more instructive is “Drive”. As Davis’ intense bass work is coupled with Chambers’ harsh cymbal clanks, a new Giuffre synthesis appears, including pressurized saxophone overblowing. Curiously too, the earlier session is more open, perhaps because the reedist still needed another chordal instrument to take up the solo slack. Certainly the later “Three Bars in One” and “Angles” finds four players in perfect sync. On the former tenor saxophone and piano play hide-and-seek with crooked or emphasized timbres. Rushing forward, Giuffre’s shrills become more abstract and Friedman’s comping becomes more agitated and staccato. Chambers’ tough rat-tat-tat smacks define “Angles”, with Friedman’s playing equally invigorating. Contemplating a response with several pregnant pauses, the tenor saxophonist’s concentrated fissures growl and splinter as Coltrane’s or Rollins’ would in similar situations. Four months later, playing a shorter version of the same tune, Giuffre’s strategy has become harder and heavier, splintering guttural explosions from the tenor’s lowest range into brief peeps behind Chambers clanks.

Considering the differences among several tunes, and the exploration and experiments used on most of the others, New York Concerts captures a major Jazz figure going through a public reexaminations of his art. In the end the two discs not only provide Jazz and reed students more material with which to study Giuffre’s mercurial stance, but also provide an exceptional listening experience for fans of every musical stripe.

—Ken Waxman

Track Listing: Disc 1: 1 Syncopate 2. Intro 3. Crossroads 4. Drive 5. Quadrangle 6. Angles Disc 2: 1 Syncopate 2. Quadrangle 3. Three Bars in One 4. Cry, Want 5. Angles 6. Drive

Personnel: Disc 1: Jimmy Giuffre (clarinet and tenor saxophone); Richard Davis (bass) and Joe Chambers (drums) Disc 2: Jimmy Giuffre (clarinet and tenor saxophone); Don Friedman (piano); Barre Phillips (bass) and Joe Chambers (drums)