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Free Fall
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20 of 20 people found the following review helpful
on 9 July 2009
This was one of those bands that was just too far ahead of it's time and lasted only about two years as a consequence.

Jimmy Giuffre was a tireless innovator and had recruited Paul Bley and Steve Swallow to form a new free jazz trio. Unfortunately audiences were just not ready for their increasingly uncompromising free jazz. This is not brash or aggressive free jazz but it was just too challenging at the time. In his New York Times obituary of Jimmy Giuffre, Bruce Weber wrote:

"...Mr. Swallow wrote that the group made its last stand at a Bleecker Street coffee house in New York, finally breaking up on a night when each musician earned 35 cents."

The track titles are:

1. Propulsion - 3:08
2. Three We - 4:13
3. Ornothoids - 2:46
4. Dichotomy - 4:00
5. Man Alone - 2:20
6. Spasmodic - 3:29
7. Yggdrasill - 2:34
8. Divided Man - 1:56
9. Primordial Call - 3:26
10.The Five Ways - 2:20
11.Present Notion - 10:22
12.Motion Suspended - 3:44
13.Future Plans - 3:18
14.Past Mistakes - 3:58
15.Time Will Tell - 2:07
16.Let's See - 3:51

Released in 1962 this was an album that few flocked to buy at the time, however, despite the almost universal disinterest that greeted the band at the time, this album has come to be regarded as one of the most important in jazz for musicians particularly. It explores collective improvisation that was way of its time and equalled by few except perhaps Joe Harriott's Free Form recorded England about the same time as this trio formed and was greeted with equal confusion, disinterest and hostility.

It is easy to forget that the musical languages that we now see as commonplace, although we may still not like them, were once so avant garde that almost nobody could appreciate it.

For anyone studying jazz this album is essential listening, however for the general audience it still represents a bit of a listening challenge but it is as accessible as any free jazz and is ultimately very rewarding and I can not imagine not owning this.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
on 28 July 2012
Recorded in 1962, 'Free Fall' put the kibosh on Jimmy Giuffre's recording career for nearly 10 years. Condemned for not being 'real' jazz, Columbia responded by deleting the album after several months; unbelievably, it remained out of print until 1995. Unlike the tumultuous outpourings on most free jazz LPs of the 1960s (Trane, Ayler, Taylor et al), 'Free Fall' was a velvet revolution - and all the more shocking for it. Giuffre abandoned time, key and metre in search of a largely non-idiomatic, freely improvised music of exceptional subtlety, delicacy, precision, spatial awareness and restraint. You hang on every nuance of expression. Giuffre's radical solo clarinet improvisations presage the equally radical solo soprano saxophone work of Evan Parker, while his duos and trios with Paul Bley and Steve Swallow are models of clarity and sensitivity that explore a previously uncharted terrain somewhere between abstract improvisation and avant-garde chamber music. And it still sounds utterly modern.

It seems churlish to quibble about a masterpiece like 'Free Fall', but the sound recording even in this remastered version raises certain issues that become especially apparent if you listen to the music on headphones. The pre-echo and post-echo are more than a tad noticeable and leave me wondering if, given the wonders of modern digital studio technology (and if this was an album by Trane or Ornette), these slight nuisances could have been isolated and removed for all eternity; one imagines/hopes that Manfred Eicher of ECM who reissued Giuffre's nearly equally jawdropping 'Fusion' and 'Thesis' of 1961 would have addressed these issues if he had been given the opportunity. Anyway, don't let these little things put you off. 'Free Fall' is one of those treasurable albums you have to hear if you want to know what was going on at the really cutting edge of 1960s jazz (not that this was really jazz) and why improvised music became the way it is. So, yes, listen to the past and, well, welcome to the future...
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13 of 14 people found the following review helpful
on 30 December 2009
This sounds more like free improvisation than free jazz. True, Steve Swallow occasionally plays a walking line and Bley interpolates some Bill Evans-like flourishes, but for the most part 'Freefall' is the sound of jazz stepping out of the blues idiom and into something radically alien and beautiful.

Giuffre overblows and splits notes, throws down sheets of arpeggios - but this isn't Coltrane on a clarinet. Rather, the focus on timbre - on the material sound of his instrument - aligns him with improvisors such as Derek Bailey and Evan Parker. Similarly, the sparse arrangements; sudden changes in tempo and volume; the leaps across huge intervals recall the music of the serialists - especially Webern. Some listeners may even detect Feldman in 'Freefall''s echoing spaces.
There's no doubt that this is a challenging album and it's not hard to understand why it met with so little success in 1962 - but today Giuffre's language sounds extraordinarily fresh and vital - as if he'd discovered an unmined musical seam that still hasn't fully been explored today. The 1961 ECM Jimmy Giuffre 3 set is perhaps slightly more accessible. Those of you with money to burn might want to track down the live 'Emphasis & Flight' cd on hatology - currently only available second-hand at a price.
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