JJ 01/83: Jimmy Giuffre at Leeds Playhouse

Forty years ago, Bob Charlesworth saw an intriguing, varied performance by the veteran clarinet, saxophone and flute modernist. First published in Jazz Journal January 1983

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Jimmy Giuffre (right) and Herb Ellis as depicted on the LP Herb Ellis Meets Jimmy Giuffre

An elderly Jimmy Giuffre, returning to this country after an absence of 17 years, was supported by the Geoff Castle trio.

The group began with a neatly phrased and orthodox How High The Moon, Giuf­fre displaying unmistakeable traces of Lesterish tenor. This was followed by some detached but oddly constructive 12-bar ideas on clarinet. A rather tepid Yardbird (on soprano) preceded an aptly named poetic original called Moonlight. For this down tempo number, Giuffre chose the bass flute, its woolly tone floating ethereal­ly. Another original, In Between, saw Ron Mathewson contribute flurries of tuneless electric bass sequences to an intricate tone painting by Giuffre’s flute. The youthful drummer, Steve Arguelles peered diffident­ly at his dots in this number and the keyboards floundered slightly. A disjointed rendering of Giuffre’s former piece de resistance The Train And The River on clarinet and tenor concluded the first half.

The best two numbers of the evening were a poignant rendering of Chelsea Bridge, with Giuffre on a sombre bass flute and a stirring Stella By Starlight to which Geoff Castle contributed an excellent solo. Giuffre played clarinet on this latter number with a hoarse low register huskiness.

Despite the dull moments, it was an in­triguing performance by an accomplished jazz musician who, some would say, ap­parently lost his way some 20 years ago and still appears a little unsure which musical path to tread.