JJ 11/91: Jimmy Giuffre – Liquid Dancers

Thirty years ago, Mark Gilbert noted now seamlessly the saxophonist's cool-era style grafted on to the fusion age. First published in Jazz Journal November 1991


Giuffre has led this semi-electric quartet since the early eighties and although its instrumentation and the idiom in which Giuffre now operates are signally differ­ent from those associated with his fifties’ work, many familiar indicators of his approach remain.

His hand is most apparent in the imaginative compositions which make up this captivating pro­gramme. Six of these are by Giuffre, and one each by Juanita Giuffre, Pete Levin and Bob Nieske, but such is the group’s unity of vision that all the pieces could easily have been Giuffre’s. In typical Giuffre style, the lower register and minor tonalities are emphasised, and one is left with an abiding impression of brood­ing suspense.

However, the music is by no means one-dimensional. All the themes are clearly delineated, and most evolve through simple but effective two-voice counterpoint involving Nieske’s bass and Giuffre’s horn, which is often subtly shadowed by Levin’s synth. Kaye’s delicate drumming provides colour as much as pulse. Most pieces also exhibit an intel­ligent awareness of motivic development (try, for example, Dancers and I Would) and all fea­ture a wealth of dynamic contour and rhythmic contrast.

The soloists make entirely apposite responses to the com­positions, and although Levin’s DX7-style electric piano and Giuffre’s soprano range into higher regions, Giuffre’s bass flute, clarinet and tenor sax and Nieske’s unusually low-pitched bass reflect the leader’s preoccu­pation with the chalumeau register.

Notwithstanding the circum­spect character of most of the music, there are interludes of four-to-the-bar swing in which Giuffre’s light Lester Young influ­enced tenor brings a dancing, playful aspect to bear and pro­vides a link between Giuffre past and present. Such moments illus­trate the emotional and concep­tual breadth of this excellent and highly recommended date.

Liquid Dancers; Koko-Nut; Runnin’ From The Rain; I Would; Move With The Times; Subway; Vision; The Teacher; If I Was (40.09)
Giuffre (ts/ss/cl/bf); Pete Levin (kyb); Bob Nieske (elb); Randy Kaye (d); Juanita Odjenar Giuffre (composer). Southbury, Conn, April 24, 1989.
(Soul Note 121158-2)