25 of 25 people found the following review helpful
Delicate filigree creations - sublime & awesome,
This review is from: Jimmy Giuffre 3, 1961 (Audio CD)
When Jimmy Giuffre broke away from the straight-jacket of white West Coast Jazz in the mid-fifties he went on to produce a series of albums experimenting with drummerless trios. In fact he did a wonderful album just before this series using a quartet of reeds/trumpet/bass/drums where the drums are not used rhythmically at all ("Tangents" - long unavailable except on the Mosaic 6CD set). Giuffre had always felt uncomfortable as a straight jazz improvisor - he needed the space & freedom to explore ideas & sounds as they cropped up in order to express himself fully, & found the thrust of a good rhythm section too restricting - he didn't want to ride the beating drum - his rhythmic sense was more dynamic & extreme. This trio with Bley & Swallow is where he first really comes into his own as composer, improvisor & leader. The two albums on this release ("Fusion" & "Thesis") were the trio's first two recordings done only a few months apart in New York 1961. Also available by this trio are the seminal "Free Fall" (1962) & two wonderful live albums - "Emphasis" & "Flight" - recorded in Germany late 1961 (recently released on HatArt as a double CD). The remit of the trio really was to reinvent music - to take it apart piece by piece & reconstruct it afresh, making each component vibrate with its own independence whilst relating to other components with a new delicate vitality. Each instrument is also treated as a component in this web of interactions - each played with restraint & sensitivity - leaving much space around each other (bringing to mind Cage's aphorism - "love is the space you leave around the loved one") - listening as attentively as creating - creative listening. Not only were this group investigating the various components of music but they were also acutely aware & sensitive to the dynamics of creating as a threesome - as a trio - in fact on the later album "Free Fall" there are duets & solo pieces as well - all sounding very different in character. The overall feel of these recordings is of intense & intelligent inquiry - the more intense it gets the quieter it becomes. The music is not really jazz - it's as much influenced by European atonal music - especially that of Berg & Webern - as it is Armstrong or Parker - in fact in the sleeve notes to "Free Fall" Giuffre states "Given: the urge to enter new realms, glimpse other dimensions, reach the absolute. Given: the visions received from thinking on such things as . . . gravity, Monk, electricity, time, space, the microcosmos, leaves, chemistry, power, Gods, white-hot heat, asteroids, love, eternity, Einstein, Rollins, Evans, the heartbeat, pain, Delius, Scherchen, Art, overtones, the prehistoric, La Violette, wife, life, voids, Berg, Bird, the universe . . .". This may sound like pretentious youthful enthusiasm but in fact it is all clearly audible in the music (Giuffre was, after all, a mature 40 years old when he made these albums) - La Violette, by the way, was Giuffre's composition teacher. Whilst "Free Fall" may be this trios best & most intense deconstruction (& final - no one would record them afterwards) - these two albums - "Fusion" & "Thesis" - are the more listenable - softer (they've been given a little ECM reverb unfortunately) - transition recordings that still vibrate strongly with the intelligence, generosity, courage & commitment with which they were made. "Free Fall" influenced the whole European free improvisation movement enormously, whereas these recordings influenced the ECM sound just as much (hence Manfred Eicher's insistence to pay homage by releasing them on his label). Given how important this trio was & is, then surely it's time we had everything they ever recorded available to us - even fluffed takes. In short this trio is, along with Evans/LaFaro/Motian, the best in jazz, & this album set is their most attractive recording.