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JIMMY GIUFFRE clarinet [except B2-B4]
STEVE SWALLOW double bass

A2 - POSTURES - 6:15
A3 - SONIC - 4:49
A4 - GOODBYE - 5:04
A6 - CRY, WANT - 6:55
A7 - FLIGHT - 5:08
A9* - JESÚS MARIA - 6:47
A10* - CARLA - 8:16
A11 - WHIRRRR - 2:02
A12* - VENTURE - 4:03
B1 - TRANCE - 4:47

B3* - I CAN’T GET STARTED - 4:10
B4* - COMPASSION FOR P.B. - 4:03

B5 - WHIRRRR - 3:56
B6 - EMPHASIS - 7:22
B7 - SONIC - 4:53
B8 - VENTURE - 4:05
B9 - JESÚS MARIA - 5:55
B11 - CARLA - 5:22
B12 - CRY, WANT - 6:42

B13 - TRUDGIN’ (original take) - 4:02
B14 - USED TO BE - 3:58

A1–B4 Analogue concert recording by Radio Bremen - Bremen (Sendesaal) 1961 November 23
Originally issued in 1992 as hat ART CD6071
except A9, A10, A12, B2, B3 & B4 which are previously unissued *.
B2, B3 & B4 are piano & bass duets.

B5–B12 Analogue concert recording by Süddeutscher Rundfunk - Stuttgart (Mozartsaal Liederhalle) 1961 November 7
Originally issued in 1993 as hat ART CD6072.

B13–B14 Analogue studio recording by Dick Olmstead - New York City 1961 May 3
Originally issued in 1961 on Verve MGV(6)8397 – not reissued on ECM.

Total time A 78:45 B 79:11


Excerpts from sleeve notes:

FLIGHT, BREMEN 1961 – original notes by ART LANGE (1992):

The 1950s were a revolutionary period in American arts and letters, from the wide-spread emergence of the Abstract Expressionist painters to Beat Generation prose and poetry, the birth of rock & roll, and the discovery of John Cage. Jazz was no exception. Though hard-bop was solidifying the grip on the mainstream that it continues to hold today, cutting-edge musicians were experimenting on both coasts, seeking new solutions to the improviser’s dilemma, new ways of formulating and organizing one’s material. These were an outgrowth of, on the one hand, the compositional advances of the Birth of the Cool and related others and, on the other, the reconsideration of the soloist’s role offered by the Tristanoites. One musician who spent the decade working in both areas was Jimmy Giuffre.

The timing was important, in retrospect, because though the Bremen concert was recorded between the studio sessions THESIS and FREE FALL, it really exemplifies the final stage of Giuffre’s underrated 1950s trios; the most successful and sublime. Though he carried on until 1965 with pianist Don Friedman and bassist Barre Phillips, critical and public neglect caused Giuffre to retreat into teaching, and it was left to Paul Bley and a very few others to surreptitiously spread this group’s influence over the next two decades.

Giuffre entered the ‘50s as a respected big band sideman and occasional scribe – his Four Brothers, written for Woody Herman’s Second Herd (the one with the sax section of Al Cohn, Stan Getz, Herbie Stewart, and Serge Chaloff), alone assured him a place in the jazz history books. As part of the scene around the Lighthouse jazz club outside of Los Angeles, he fell in with Shorty Rogers (Giuffre was a member of his Giants from ‘53-55), Shelly Manne, Bill Russo and many of the ex-Kentonites who were looking for avenues of expression separate from the big band experience. These burgeoning interests resulted from a tug-of-war between classical music (Hollywood had become the home of many European 'Modernist' composers who settled there during and after WWII, to teach or write film music) and Count Basie-style swing (Lester Young being a focal point for saxophonists).

By 1953 this adventurous blend was already labelled THE WEST COAST SOUND on a ten-inch LP by Shelly Manne and His Men, for which Giuffre contributed the most classically-oriented writing, a largely atonal Fugue for seven-piece band, combining strict counterpoint with a hip ‘50s urban noir demeanour of the sort Leonard Bernstein borrowed for his musicals and ballets. The next year, for his own record date, he wrote another thoroughly notated piece for septet, Sultana. Later that year he participated in an even more radical venture, a trio consisting solely of his reeds, Rogers’ trumpet, and Manne’s drums. His contribution was Pas de Trois, a rondo of canons (one of Webern’s favourite techniques, as it happens) using the drums as a melodic equal; The Three also explored uncharted territory with the spontaneously conceived Abstract No. 1, and Giuffre’s 1955 quartet waxed Ironic, where open textures and understated colour combinations pointed the way towards the trios which would be his primary activity for the next seven years.

Giuffre has confessed that his first drummer-less trio, with guitarist Jim Hall and bassist Ralph Pena, was influenced by Debussy’s Sonata For Flute, Viola, and Harp,. Though the pastel moods of Impressionism and the chamber music interplay of the instruments were no doubt important to Giuffre, they never completely superseded the jazz input, and subsequent albums like 7 PIECES and THE EASY WAY (replacing Pena with, respectively, Red Mitchell and Ray Brown) did alter the traditional balance and role playing between the instruments, while maintaining much of Giuffre’s roots in jazz, via standards or his own folk/C&W-flavoured melodies. There were moments of exception, however, as in the quiet mood of Princess, with its interludes outside of the song form, or the brief Montage, an admittedly Impressionistic study less dependent than ever on jazz rhythms.

If the trio with Steve Swallow and Paul Bley was the most remarkable, it’s due to many factors. Bley was no novice, already having a strong background in unconventional music; he had conducted and played piano in some of Charles Mingus’ expressionistic works, and his involvement with Ornette Coleman and Don Cherry in Los Angeles broadened his experience with dissonance, free phrasing, and spontaneous forms. Giuffre himself made some telling decisions which affected the identity of the group. Possibly the most important was to concentrate solely on the clarinet. This was by far his best, most personal instrument, as he rejected the virtuosic brilliance of the Swing Era-style clarinet in favour of a warm, moody, largely chalumeau approach more suited to the introspective nature of much of their material.

Bley’s contribution to the band’s book was some of his own open-ended pieces and other structurally idiosyncratic ones by his then wife, Carla. Giuffre’s writing for this trio leaned less on his folksy side and more towards the classical – with angular intervals, atonality, counterpoint, and non-jazz rhythms. He’d finally found the combination of timbre and temperament which would allow him to explore the 'new dimensions of feeling' which he had sought as early as 1956. Those new dimensions featured quiet dynamics, a liquidity and transparency of ensemble requiring an almost radical intensity of concentration and empathy, and a reliance on nuance, all resulting from new ideas of freedom... not only in solos, but freedom in tempos, keys, harmonies, and melodic direction.

Here, for example, a piece like Carla Bley’s Postures shows how acutely the three track each other’s movements and respond in kind. Sonic, meanwhile, may be their archetypal performance. This is improvised chamber music at its best, where their expanded harmonic references and lightning-quick jazz reflexes produced a new force, break through to a new type of musical expression. The three have achieved liberation, as discrete yet related parts of a whole. This is where Giuffre’s stated interest in Monk can be traced; that is, not merely Monk’s jagged melodies or his dramatically heightened isolated intervals, but his breakup of time (a distortion of regulated rhythm), his stark placement of sound in space. Thus if, as Graham Lock has suggested, Cecil Taylor and Giuffre at this time both 'questioned the tyranny of the stated beat and came up with diametrically opposed solutions,' it’s because Taylor’s trio (with Jimmy Lyons and Sunny Murray) stretched the beat, elastically, to fit his own expansive ideas, while Giuffre’s trio erased it (like Robert Rauschenberg’s 'Erased DeKooning' drawing) – both proceeding from Monk’s precedent.

The value of live concert recordings is often to make available music that a band never recorded commercially. Of course, the pieces the trio did record previously benefit from the looseness of live performance (though by all accounts they recorded 'live' in the studio to a large degree as well) – Swallow’s increased involvement on Sonic, the more forceful Giuffre attack on the oft-times sentimental Goodbye, the harder-edged, more adventurous Flight. Even the soulful That’s True, That’s True reveals a few more secrets on rehearing – specifically, the introduction’s call-and-response similarity to Miles Davis’ So What (is there a clue in the title?), and a possible debt to Ellington (via Jumpin’ Punkins and Jack The Bear, in the prominence of the bass and the feel of the arrangements).

The new material is equally fascinating. In addition to the elusive chase at the center of Call Of The Centaur and Postures, Carla’s deceptive blues, Trance exemplifies the trio’s inner workings – a small amount of written music which acts as a frame and occasional point of reference for the open improvising. Then there’s the atypical Suite for Germany, unusual in that it’s primarily notated, yet indicative of Giuffre’s many interests. For despite the almost telepathic improvisational abilities of the trio, he never completely abandoned composition, and in the alternating tempos and rubato, unison and contrapuntal episodes, and quick wit, sought to reconcile the individual’s spontaneous choices with his own ideas of formal coherency.

It would be wrong to say that this trio was ahead of its time, though their methods have proven invaluable to the musicians who have followed, since they were so much of their time, a time when a breath of fresh air blew through all the arts and created an enthusiasm of energy, an acceptance of new modes of expression. Swallow, Bley, and Giuffre’s remarkable musicianship, intellect, invention, and empathy created timeless music of significance and deep feeling.

EMPHASIS, STUTTGART 1961 – original notes by ART LANGE (1993):

'Just as [Ornette] Coleman’s music challenged the validity of the pianist as accompanist, Giuffre’s music challenged the necessity of the drums/bass format as a rhythm machine. Now each instrument became their own rhythm machine, and since you were playing music with or without tempo, the group could consist of a cello and flute and oboe and that would be a jazz trio. We found that one of the ways to break out of successful moulds – to get out of a particular era in music that had locked us in – was to change the instrumentation.'

As pianist for both Ornette Coleman and Jimmy Giuffre during key points in their careers, Paul Bley, who related the above to me, participated in these revolutionary changes firsthand. One of the most inquisitive, inventive musicians of the post-WWII (that is to say, post-bebop) period, if Bley was not the specific impetus that pushed Giuffre into these uncharted territories, he was no doubt the perfect partner, sharing with the clarinetist an urgent desire for wide-open harmonic and rhythmic spaces and the capacity for improvisation that balanced lyricism and logic. With bassist Steve Swallow a willing, if slightly less experienced, collaborator, their synthesis led the trio to take daring risks and make magnificent music. But Giuffre himself had been working toward what he called 'new dimensions of feeling' slowly, in previous years. These new dimensions were the result of new directions of improvisation, directions that are only being completely understood now, and adapted by a wide range of creative musicians.

One reason why it’s taken so long is the lack of documentation of this valuable trio. Until recently, we’ve only had the official canon—that is, the two Verve LPs, FUSION and THESIS (since combined in a two-CD reissue, 1961, on ECM) and the amazing Columbia recording FREE FALL. But with the release of a second concert performance (the first from Bremen was recorded sixteen days after this Stuttgart one) we have additional material and the adrenaline rush of the on-stage environment to reinforce the view that this was one of the most prophetic, path-breaking – and unjustly neglected – ensembles of its time.

The trio’s advanced musical concepts were not forged in a vacuum. The ‘50s were a hotbed of Modernist activity, kicked off by the flowing melodic intricacy of Lennie Tristano’s groups (including the so-called 'free' compositions Intuition and Digression in 1949), followed in close order by various experimental Jazz Workshops devised by Charles Mingus, George Russell’s expansive early compositions, Cecil Taylor’s aggregated syntax, and ending with Ornette’s polyrhythmic, non-chordal flights of fantasy. Giuffre was in the middle of the intense West Coast scene, studying with classical composer Wesley LaViolette, trying to find ways to incorporate his interest in less-heavily-stressed rhythms and atonality into still-recognizable jazz contexts. His 1954 experiences with The Three (a highly unlikely, for its time, combo of Giuffre’s reeds, Shorty Rogers’ trumpet, and Shelly Manne’s drums), especially the freely improvised Abstract No. 1, anticipated his equally subtle but more conventional trios later in the decade.

Some of Giuffre’s Third Stream-oriented pieces were described in the notes to the Bremen concert. Suffice to say, none of them brought him to the precipice of freedom, to the airy exhilaration of the 'new dimensions of feeling' that he sought, as did this trio, formed in 1960 and sadly short-lived. One reason for this was the instrumentation. As Paul Bley suggested above, one way to circumvent stylistic convention is to redefine the roles of the instruments, and by leaving out the drummer, Giuffre’s music emphasized the rhythmic individuality of each participant. The crisp interaction, based upon a taut line of development, in Giuffre’s primarily notated Suite for Germany would not have been possible without the acute give-and-take of such responsive musicians. Likewise, the almost total trust necessary for the sort of musical intimacy heard on Sonic, the microtonal play of Swallow and Giuffre, and the impossibly delicate sotto voce details. Such a combination can swing hard, as the high-spirited passages in Venture show, or express plaintive introspection, as on the haunting Cry, Want. This flexibility of mood, texture, and rhythm was to be carried to even greater lengths by subsequent musicians in Chicago, England, and throughout Europe.

Aside from its rhythmic openness, the trio’s emphasis on linear counterpoint defined their revolutionary sound. With each musician creating his own part within the spontaneous arrangement, harmony was often incidental, dependent upon the layering of melodic details. And thanks to their sparse textures and nearly telepathic interplay, Giuffre was able to disguise basic blues settings with a deceptive, rootless atonality, improvising on unusual intervals and abstruse melodic shapes which apparently alienated many listeners then but sound fresh and natural today.

The performances at these concerts take the earlier Verve versions another step toward total freedom, without abdicating ensemble responsibilities. Perhaps surprisingly, when Giuffre finally took the plunge on FREE FALL a year later, the majority of the pieces were solo, with only two trio improvisations. No doubt had they stayed together they would have evolved a new syntax of group improvisation, which was not to be explored until later in the ‘60s. But as it stands, these concert performances are their most intense testimony, full of honest inquiry into style and self, as enigmatic as they are eloquent.

Additional notes by MARTIN DAVIDSON (2016):

Like creative and/or original musicians and artists in other areas, most jazz musicians seemed to have found their own voice and peaked early on, typically in their twenties, then carried on playing in the same style and milieu for the rest of their career – sometimes even reaching the state of self-caricature. Some developed late, and some even remained interesting for the whole of a lengthy career, possibly even getting better towards the end – Henry Red Allen, Coleman Hawkins, Earl Hines and Pee Wee Russell come to mind.

Thus for most jazz musicians one knew the sort of music one was going to get at any stage in their career. However, some did not conform to what was expected of them. Instead they drastically changed their musical direction once or twice or even three times, much to the chagrin of promoters and the audience. Think of John Coltrane, Miles Davis, Jimmy Giuffre and Steve Lacy, or 'swinging changes' musicians like Joe Harriott, Sonny Rollins, Stan Tracey and the Tristanoites who had relatively brief flirtations with freedom.

Coltrane kept most of his following, and probably expanded it, when he went into his modal period, thanks somewhat to his hit version of My Favourite Things, even though the long improvised sections only used the rhythm and not the structure of the popular tune. Moving into his final free period, he left much of his audience behind. He tried to compromise by still playing his hit number, but by then it was just a perfunctory statement at the beginning and end of a longer performance most of which had nothing to do with the structure or rhythm of the tune (and yet the royalties of the whole performance absurdly continued to go to Roger and Hammerstein).

Giuffre also had a hit, namely The Train and the River (which I recently saw listed as 'The Train and the Driver'!), an original which was given a popularity boost by being featured in that no doubt well-intended but dreadful film JAZZ ON A SUMMERS DAY. However he only played it in the later 1950s (apart from a revival some twenty years later), so some people were disappointed by its absence in the 1960s. There were, however, other reasons why some fans were unhappy with his music from the period on this collection. Gone was the folksy smoothness of the earlier trios.

Jimmy Giuffre started his musical career as a Texas honker – walking the bar and all that – a well as an accomplished composer/arranger best known for his Four Brothers, written for the Woody Herman Second Herd. He then migrated to Los Angeles, falling in with musicians such as Shelly Manne and Shorty Rogers. In addition to the normal West Coast fare, Giuffre also explored other forms ranging from totally composed to freely improvised.

One thing he wanted to get away from was the constant presence of the rhythm section. He initially tried to do this by writing down minimal parts for the drummer to adhere to, something that tended to sound rather stilted. His subsequent change in 1956 was more musically successful. He did away with a drummer, resulting in the fine trio with guitarist Jim Hall and a bass player. This tended to have a folksy feel to it, and along with Giuffre’s clarinet playing concentrating on the lower (chalumeau) range, meant that the trio could be described as 'easy listening' as well as “innovative'.

The next few years saw the group changing in size and/or instrumentation, never quite gelling as well as the original trio. (Making a quartet by taking over the Steve Lacy Trio was by all reports an unhappy move.) When Jim Hall eventually left, he recommended Paul Bley to replace him, and Bley in turn recommended Steve Swallow, a young bass player he had recently come across.

The new trio still had hints of the folksy feel of the old one, but the two newcomers introduced some more adventurous elements, picked up in their work in freer settings, such as Bley’s predictably short-lived 1958 group containing Ornette Coleman and Don Cherry. Another change to the sound of the trio was Giuffre making much more use of the upper range of the clarinet – playing alongside Coleman at Lenox in 1960 gave him the confidence to expand his range. He also stopped using his saxophones in order to consolidate his new clarinet exploits. The music covered considerable ground from leisurely 12-bar blues like Carla and Emphasis, to fast all-but-free improvisations like Flight and Sonic, so that much of the music was not 'easy listening' for most people. However, the audiences at the concerts on this album sound quite enthusiastic rather than polite – they certainly don’t seem hostile – and they even demanded some encores at Bremen.

Two records, FUSION and THESIS, were recorded in 1961 before this tour, in spite of the reluctance of the record company and recording engineers. These essential albums were reissued in 1992 on ECM 1438/39 which is still available. (Incidentally, FUSION was Swallow’s first appearance on record.) The European tour was the trio’s major opportunity to perform in public, so these concert recordings show how the performances had developed after the formal records.

Return to New York found the trio returning to the same paucity of work as before – the story goes that they decided to break-up after a gig in which the door money came to 35 cents each. (Later European improvisers often had to put up with less than that, but fortunately decided to continue to follow the music to wherever it would go.) Another trio album, the even better FREE FALL, was made the following year and made available 'for a minute' then reissued again 'for another minute' a few years ago. Much of the material on this consisted of freely improvised clarinet solos, which show an enormous advance on the ones recorded two or three years earlier on MOMENTUM.

And then silence... Giuffre was virtually unable to get any gigs or make any records for about a decade, due to de facto art censorship that should probably be called 'Capitalist Realism'. Cecil Taylor was also unable to work around the same time also because he was considered too far out. Lee Konitz had his free improvisation recordings lost by his record company. Herbie Nichols could not get any more recordings after 1957, presumably because he didn’t fit in with any of the prevailing jazz orthodoxies. While Max Roach was frozen out by record labels because he was too political, i.e., he campaigned both in and out of his music for equal rights for people regardless of their skin colour. (I was lucky enough to hear Roach’s quintet several times at the Five Spot in the mid-1960s, and I can frustratedly report that the music was so much better than on DRUMS UNLIMITED which eventually did break the boycott.)

A few years ago some 1965 recordings of Giuffre were released on Elemental 5590425. These revealed that he had returned to tenor saxophone as well as clarinet, and had moved further out to play what could possibly be described as cool Fire Music. When he returned to recording regularly again in the 1970s, the folksy feel had become fairly dominant again, and a drummer was also present.

Although Giuffre’s music throughout his career was of interest, this 1961/2 trio with Bley and Swallow was his musical highpoint for many musicians and listeners. It was also the most influential period. A wide range of music was touched by this short-lived group, most notably the AACM in Chicago and the Spontaneous Music Ensemble and offshoots in London. John Stevens and others found the improvised sections of the trio’s music showed a possible way to make group improvised music, as well as ways to play out of tempo.

Most of the recordings on this 2-CD set was purchased from the radio companies in 1992 and first issued on two hat ART CDs. The Bremen concert also contains three trio and three piano/bass duo performances that were not issued on the hat ART CDs. The mono radio tapes had previously been re-sequenced for broadcast, so one cannot be certain of the order of performance. There are some clues, so that I am fairly certain that the trio tracks are in the right order within each concert. However, I have no idea where the duo pieces fitted in, so I have used them as a break between the two concerts. They do give a good idea of Bley’s unique approach, which influenced Bill Evans in the 1950s and Keith Jarrett in the 1960s.

Also included are the two tracks from the FUSION LP that were omitted from the ECM reissue. A different take of Trudgin’ was used, while Used to be was left out. This last title was complete on the original American mono LP, but faded out at about 3:40 on the American stereo, while it finished abruptly at the same place on the stereo Japanese LP. I have managed to produce a mostly stereo track with a mono ending. (As far as I know, the only previous CD release of these two tracks is on an AVID Paul Bley compilation, which has a sound that can best be described as distant mono.)

All this means that this double CD and the ECM one together contain all the known good recordings of this trio made in 1961. Three LPs from this tour were issued in Italy in the 1980s, two from Graz and one from somewhere else, but their sound is atrocious. There also is a well-recorded concert from Tübingen, but the piano is so far out of tune that it cannot be considered usable, especially as there are these two superlative concerts from Bremen and Stuttgart.


Links to reviews:


JOHN EYLES - All About Jazz 2016

anon - DUSTY GROOVE 2017


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