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The Jimmy Giuffre 3 and 4 – New York Concerts (1965/2014) [TrackList follows] – Elemental/INgrooves/Resonance/ Universal Music

The Jimmy Giuffre 3 and 4 – New York Concerts (1965/2014) [TrackList follows] – Elemental/INgrooves/ Resonance/ Universal Music (distribution) 5990425, (2 CDs) 36:24, 50:20 [6/10/14] ****:

(Jimmy Giuffre – clarinet, tenor saxophone; Richard Davis (CD 1), Barre Phillips (CD 2) – bass; Joe Chambers – drums; Don Friedman – piano (CD 2))

The jazz world owes a debt of gratitude to George Klabin. He started the Rising Jazz Stars Foundation and established the Resonance label, and as a youthful jazz producer, engineer and devoted fan, he recorded some of the top talents of the 1960s and 1970s. His archive of unreleased jazz is steadily being issued, including unheard or little heard material from Bill Evans, John Coltrane, Wes Montgomery and Charles Lloyd. One of those unearthed discoveries (which came out in June) is the 2-CD New York Concerts, which features 1965 live performances by Jimmy Giuffre and his trio (The Jimmy Giuffre 3) and his quartet (The Jimmy Giuffre 4). Considerate acknowledgement also goes to Zev Feldman (the Resonance label’s executive vice president and general manager), who convinced Klabin the Giuffre shows should be made available; put together a deal with the Elemental label when Klabin declined to distribute the Giuffre music; acted as producer for the project; and put into motion all of the details that make up this superb audio package.

Here’s a little background for those not in the know. Saxophonist and clarinetist Giuffre (who passed away in 2008) was initially part of the swing music scene, and then became involved in the West Coast cool jazz community. But he had forward-set creativity and thrust aside expectations as he developed concepts on improvisational independence which ran counter to what typical jazz audiences wanted to hear. Not surprisingly, his avant-garde or abstract leanings did not result in financial gain or widespread approval; and lack of listener interest got him dropped from the Columbia label in 1962. He would not record again as a leader until 1971. The almost ten-year gap is deemed by some as Giuffre’s lost decade. But he wasn’t lost, just not found on LPs. In the midst of that long interlude, Giuffre collaborated in trio or other group settings. In 1965, the then-young Klabin, who was the jazz program director for Columbia University’s radio station, WKCR-FM, taped Giuffre twice for broadcast purposes: a quartet performance in May and then a trio show in September. It is these two presentations—only aired once and then shelved for half a century—which form the New York Concerts package.

Disc one (36 minutes, six tracks) is from a September 3, 1965 date at Judson Hall, which was located across from Carnegie Hall; the venue was renamed CAMI Hall in 1971. The program was part of the New York Festival of the Avant Garde, and marks the only appearance of Giuffre (on tenor sax and clarinet) with bassist Richard Davis and drummer Joe Chambers (who is also on disc two). It also denotes Giuffre’s return to tenor sax; he had utilized clarinet exclusively in his previous trio with bassist Steve Swallow and pianist Paul Bley. Giuffre and his trio commence with his older “Syncopate,” from the mid-1950s. The fresher, nearly eight-minute translation is different than earlier ones. Giuffre combines his notions on counterpoint, pointillistic harmony and an unpredictable, unsettled style.

The music is improvised but not unlistenable: abstract but balanced with quietness and spaciousness. Giuffre appreciated Ornette Coleman and displays an awareness of Coleman’s progressive stance during an eight-minute cover of Coleman’s “Crossroads,” where Giuffre exploits his clarinet’s timbre and range. Besides some modernist clarinet soloing, Giuffre and Davis illustrate what a bass/clarinet duet with innovative clarity can sound like: Davis’ brisk, con arco phrases are something to behold. The lengthiest piece is the almost 12-minute “Drive,” also from the 1950s, which Giuffre re-does in a novel way. Giuffre switches back to tenor sax, and supports both a soft and heavy tone which rides atop Davis and Chambers’ rhythmic lines. During a bass/sax duet, he and Davis insert an unearthly impression. There is intense group interaction during the second half which showcases how the three musicians could unify individual ideas into a shared communication. Giuffre concludes with two mathematically-metered tracks, “Quadrangle” and “Angles.” The relatively shorter “Quadrangle” (just under four minutes) is akin to musical stream-of-consciousness, an expressive exchange with Giuffre back on clarinet, Davis on dynamic pizzicato and Chambers’ demonstrates his knotty percussive effects, from unexpected thumps to elegant brushwork. The likeminded “Angles” escalates into a laboratory of sound, where Giuffre exhibits his vibrant harmonics on tenor sax (from low notes to high trills) and Chambers lays out a quick-paced tempo.

Disc two, with six pieces which run to 50 minutes, replicates four of the cuts from disc one. Here, Giuffre brings four to the fore, implementing a quartet. Giuffre (again on tenor sax and clarinet) and Chambers are supplemented by pianist Don Friedman (who replaced Bley) and Barre Phillips is on bass. This was taped in May 19, 1965 in an empty Wollman Auditorium on the Columbia University campus, specifically for radio only. Giuffre again leads off with “Syncopate,” and that is followed by a seven-minute, extended version of “Quadrangle,” where Friedman furnishes an uninhibited flow similar to Bley’s treatment of improvisation, space and harmonics. The quartet shifts into ambient territory at times, with atmospheric arco bass, Giuffre’s higher-register clarinet, and Chambers unconventional brushes and cymbals, and controlled but liberal rhythmic touches. The nearly nine-minute “Three Bars in One” continues in an equivalent vein: the transition from “Quadrangle” to this number is virtually invisible. At times, Friedman evokes both Lennie Tristano and Cecil Taylor, although not at the same time, with cool but complex chords and single-note runs. The highlight is “Cry, Want,” conspicuous for a handsome foundational statement clarified via Giuffre’s clarinet and Phillips’ breathing bass. Like other Giuffre compositions, the tune includes a dark timbre, and eventually the piece alters tonality and becomes expressively shadowy. The quartet moves into an aggregate abstraction, but by the conclusion they reorganize “Cry, Want” so a lingering, bluesy feeling takes over. Elongated renditions of “Angles” and “Drive” both complete disc two.

Those who assume 50-year-old live recordings may not be conducive to high fidelity listening will be surprised. For both concerts, Klabin operated a two-track Crown tape recorder, with a four-input mixer and individually close-mic’ed each musician. The result is audibly excellent and exceeds some studio efforts from the same period. Klabin’s tapes were also mixed, mastered and restored for this package at the Resonance Records studio in Beverly Hills. The 28-page insert booklet is exemplary. Feldman wrote an introductory item; French jazz scribe Philippe Carles penned a short Giuffre tribute; and jazz author Bob Blumenthal edited material from various old and new sources to paint a detailed account of Giuffre and his music, with emphasis on the two concerts. There is a brief transcription interview with Klabin; a note from Giuffre’s widow, Juanita Giuffre, who was important in allowing this unreleased music to be issued; and sections from previously published conversations with former Giuffre trio members Bley, bassist Steve Swallow and guitarist Jim Hall.


CD 1: Syncopate; Intro; Crossroads; Drive; Quadrangle; Angles
CD 2: Syncopate; Quadrangle; Three Bars in One; Cry, Want; Angles; Drive

—Doug Simpson

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