Like a fool, I left it too late to get tickets for this trio’s appearance at The Jazz Café earlier this year. If these two records are anything to go by, I must have missed some of the best jazz of the year.
As they did briefly at the beginning of the 1960s, these three master musicians, each with an utterly distinctive sound and approach to his instrument, combine to offer listeners of contemplative persuasion some absolutely superb music. The music’s vocabulary stretches from the Second Viennese School to the blues and bop, and from tonally-rooted folk melody to post-Coleman abstraction.
I have a marginal preference for the Sunday session, but both volumes will amply repay attention from anyone who relishes the prospect of a sequence of finely turned improvisations, full of shape-shifting, convincing compositional logic.
The music moves seamlessly from solo and duet performances to the full trio; spacious as it is, it is packed full of dynamic, melodic and harmonic interest. If you would like to sample before purchasing, try the title track from the Sunday session, with its organic crossings of rubato abstraction and swing, rumination and the blues. As usual with Owl, recording and overall production standards are first class.
[The Life Of A Trio: Saturday] Clarinet Zone; Black Ivory; Owl Eyes; Endless Melody; Turns; Foreplay; We Agree; Clusters; December; Someone; Even Steven; By The Way (45.37)
Jimmy Giuffre (ss/cl); Paul Bley (p); Steve Swallow (elb). New York, December 16, 1989.
[The Life Of A Trio: 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 (66.19)
Jimmy Giuffre (ss/cl); Paul Bley (p); Steve Swallow (elb). New York, December 17, 1989.