JJ 10/91: Jimmy Giuffre, Paul Bley, Steve Swallow – The Life Of A Trio: Saturday & The Life Of A Trio: Sunday

Thirty years ago Michael Tucker found to much to enjoy in the trio's blend of fin de siècle Vienna, blues, bop, folk and abstraction. First published in Jazz Journal October 1991


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.
(OWL 059CD)
[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.
(OWL 060CD)