Jimmy Giuffre: 7 Pieces

This 1959 set catches the sublime Giuffre in between his self-proclaimed 'blues-based folk jazz' and the more improvised enterprises of 1961-3


Following the success of his trio with guitarist Jim Hall and valve trombonist Bob Brookmeyer from 1958-9, heard on the Newport Jazz Festival movie Jazz On A Summer’s Day, Jimmy Giuffre entered probably his most fertile period. In subsequent trio line-ups, Ray Brown and then Red Mitchell on bass replaced Brookmeyer. It’s Mitchell we hear on the LA studio album here; he’s replaced by Buddy Clark in previously unissued material from a Rome concert.

The music is transitional between his earlier “blues-based folk jazz” – Giuffre’s description – and an understated free jazz with another drummerless trio from 1961-3 with Paul Bley and Steve Swallow. However, there are plenty of blues or at least bluesiness here, notably on Happy Man and Princess (two versions), while Lovely Willow and The Little Melody are gentler and more exploratory; The Story manages to be both. The four live tracks – which are very well recorded – swing harder and are closer to bebop, notably the uptempo Four Brothers where the leader is on tenor, and looks back to his Woody Herman days.

Max Harrison was absolutely right in The Essential Jazz Records: here was an “almost ruthless process of exploration . . . a special case of free jazz, as free as anything that Ornette Coleman or Cecil Taylor were then doing or would do in the immediately succeeding years, and [which] introduced not just a fresh sound but a kind of sensibility new to jazz”. That sensibility is clear on this very fine and beautiful album by a neglected jazz master.

NB: This review first appeared in Jazz Journal in 2017 and is republished here to mark EJC’s reissue of the same, unaltered title in 2022.

Happy Man; Princess; Song of the Wind; Lovely Willow; The Little Melody; The Story; Time Machine; Two Degrees East, Three Degrees West; Four Brothers; Princess; Careful (77.46)
Giuffre (cl, ts, bar); Jim Hall (g); Red Mitchell, Buddy Clark (b). 1959.
Essential Jazz Classics EJC55419