Return to Dr.Progresso Reviews
THE COMPLETE CAPITOL & ATLANTIC RECORDINGS OF JIMMY GIUFFRE (Mosaic MD6-176 [6 CDs; $96.00; limited edition of 5,000])There are a number of things that need to be said about this collection. One is that Jimmy Giuffre was an important and innovative jazz musician and composer, and this collection contains at least 90% of his best and most important recordings -- only one single album of which has been available previously on CD (THE JIMMY GIUFFRE 3, on
Giuffre started out in the forties as a modern follower of Lester Young, on tenor sax. He was part of a school of post-Young tenor players, those who came to defiine the "Cool" sound of West Coast Jazz in the fifties. But as a composer he stood out, his own man. As a member of Short Rogers' Giants and the early Lighthouse All-Stars, Giuffre had the opportunity to play with the best the West Coast had to offer, and he wrote a number of cool-boppish pieces for those (and other) groups. (He also wrote "Big Boy" and its sequel, "Big Girl," raucus proto-rock'n'roll pieces -- circa 1953 -- on which he played primal one-note honk-and-skree choruses on tenor sax; the very antithesis of "cool.") There are several reflections of this on his first Capitol album, but in equal amounts there are two other areas of jazz under exploration. The first was not unique to Giuffre: it was the classical-training-inspired use of counterpoint and fugal devices, taken straight from Baroque music. This enjoyed a vogue in fifties jazz, underlying much of the work of such groups as the Modern Jazz Quartet and the
The third area of jazz was unique to Giuffre. This was his interest in and development of music with implied -- rather than explicitly stated -- rhythm. The drummer, if there was one, would be urged to play only the accents, without keeping the rhythm itself. More often there would be no drummer. But this was not classically-inspired music; this was jazz. Its roots lie in
Despite the popularity of the Giuffre 3s he did make a wide variety of albums for
This collection covers the years 1954 through 1958. The first disc contains his two Capitol albums, FOUR BROTHERS and TANGENTS IN JAZZ. Giuffre's early fame rested on his composition, in 1947, of "Four Brothers" for Woody Herman's orchestra. The original "four brothers" were three tenor saxes and a baritone sax, and the piece is voiced in close harmonies. Thus, his first album as a leader, was given the FOUR BROTHERS title and a new version of the piece appears on it. This was followed a year later by TANGENTS, a continuation -- but more experimental -- of the first album.
Disc two contains Giuffre's first Atlantic album, THE JIMMY GIUFFRE CLARINET (an unalloyed masterpiece, in my opinion) and Giuffre's five collaborations with the Modern Jazz Quartet from THE MODERN JAZZ QUARTET AT MUSIC INN Vol. 1 (never issued on CD, although Vol. 2 has been out for more than ten years!) and from THIRD STREAM MUSIC.
Disc three opens with three other pieces recorded at Music Inn (originally heard on HISTORIC JAZZ CONCERT AT MUSIC INN), and concludes with Giuffre's version of THE MUSIC MAN.
Disc four opens with THE JIMMY GIUFFRE 3 (the one album already available on CD) and then offers an entire unreleased album by a subsequent 3 (Jim Atlas on bass substituting for Ralph Pena). The concept of the 3 was a trio with no true "rhythm section," no drummer, and a reliance on "implied rhythm," a concept Giuffre had been developing on his Capitol albums. The first 3 had Giuffre on clarinet and saxes (tenor and baritone), Jim Hall on guitar, and Ralph Pena on bass. When Pena became unavailable, Atlas was brought in to record new material, but Giuffre became dissatisfied with the instrumentation. Atlas and his bass left, and in came Bob Brookmeyer, on trombone. This changed the 3 to a two-horn group and significantly altered its sound.
The new 3, with Brookmeyer, made TRAV'LIN' LIGHT and WESTERN SUITE. Disc five has all of TRAV'LIN' LIGHT and half (the second side) of WESTERN SUITE.
Disc six opens with the "Western Suite" itself, and concludes with THE FOUR BROTHERS SOUND. The later album makes use of four overdubbed tenor saxes (all played by Giuffre of course), sometimes acappella, and sometimes accompanied by Hall on guitar and Brookmeyer on piano (not trombone).
For me, the albums with the greatest musical impact are the Capitol albums, THE GIUFFRE CLARINET, MUSIC MAN, and THE FOUR BROTHERS SOUND. These albums all offer a broad musical pallet and ambitious compositions, as well as the occasional standard arranged insightfully. The albums by the 3s are more homogenious and their music -- a kind of pastoral folk-funk -- tends to blend together. But all are important albums, both in terms of their times and as lasting contributions to the cannon of jazz.
That said, I now come to the third thing that must be said of this collection: The albums have been butchered.
Some anal-retentive idiot decided that Mosaic company policy would be to present the material in their collections chronologically. Thus, the pieces in this collection are ordered by when they were recorded -- not by their original order on the albums where they first appeared. Francis Davis, the collection's annotator, observes of Giuffre's MUSIC MAN, "Although the tunes appear here in the order in which they were recorded, the original album followed the stage sequence out of Giuffre's respect for the show." Would that Mosaic had the same respect! So committed is Moasic to this concept that they feel obliged to apologize for not sticking strictly to it here: "Because of the variety of musical settings in these Jimmy Giuffre recordings, the sessions are not presented in strict chronological order, although all the tunes within them have [sic]." In other words, the albums aren't presented in exact chronological order, but the pieces within them are. Sigh....
This policy makes (some) sense when a collection is made up primarily of singles, or of material which was originally collected haphazardly on albums (as many jazz albums of the early fifties were; they simply collected previously recorded 78 rpm singles). But by the mid-fifties jazz albums were being put together as albums. Consideration was given to how sides opened and closed, the balance of long and short pieces, and musical and thematic development from one track to the next. (And there were practical considerations as well, like closing sides with quieter pieces due to inner-groove distortion.) Mosaic's policy totally and completely ignores this. Indeed, it is antithetical to it. And the results, in this collection, are unhappy.
Thus, in TANGENTS Giuffre presents four pieces, paced through the album, called "Scintilla" I through IV. "Scintilla I" states the theme; subsequent "Scintilla"s offer variations on the theme. So what appears first in this collection? "Scintilla II" of course. What follows is another track (a Vernon Duke song), then "Scintilla I," another Giuffre piece, and (one following the other) "Scintilla IV" and "Scintilla III." This makes no real sense, musically or otherwise -- except for the fact that this is the order in which they were recorded. Very anal.
But it gets worse. THE JIMMY GIUFFRE CLARINET is probably Giuffre's masterpiece. As originally released on LP, it was beautifully assembled. It opens with "So Low," a slow clarinet blues, unaccompanied except by Giuffre's tapping foot. The next piece is "Deep Purple," performed by Giuffre in duet with Jimmy Rowles on celeste. From there the album builds with a trio for the third track on up to the album closer, "Down Home," which begins with a nine-piece band but concludes with Giuffre and just his tapping foot -- a return to the album's opening. But in this collection the first track on the disc -- the first recorded, sigh... -- is "Down Home." "So Low" is the fourth track. (But nonetheless, even in this deconstructed state, this album offers so many delights, from the atonal "The Side Pipers" to the fervently beautiful "My Funny Valentine," that I can almost forgive its butchered order.)
What to do? Those of us who have the original LPs can, I guess, avail ourselves of our CD player's capacity for reprogramming; we can, if we're willing to go to all the trouble required, listen to these albums in their original order. The rest of you are outta luck.
But, despite my considerable unhappiness with this flaw in the collection, I must recommend it to anyone interested in some of the best music jazz had to offer in its most fecund period, the middle fifties. It's almost criminal that both Atlantic/Rhino and Capitol/Blue Note have ignored these important albums in their catalogs, and that we are forced to fall back on Mosaic's monochromatic package in this CD age. (Speaking of packaging, Mosaic also caters to the Cult of the LP. That means their collections are offered as both CDs and LPs, and come in LP-sized boxes thick enough to hold ten or twelve LPs. If you order a CD package, the actual jewel boxes come set in plastic inserts set into the big LP box. Either version offers an LP-sized booklet which also fits in the box. The jewel boxes themselves come with duplicate info, minus annotations, from the big booklet. All packaging is done in black & white. The booklets use historical photographs, but avoid all depictions of original album art or covers, for reasons unknown to me.) Mosaic issues most of its collections in limited editions of 5,000; this arrangement is what has encouraged commercial labels to make material available. I think what Mosaic is doing is, overall, worthwhile and admirable, but as long as it makes it policy to destroy the playing order of the albums it reissues, I'm afraid Mosaic remains for me the venue of last resort.
JIMMY GIUFFRE UPDATE:
In the years since I wrote the above review all of Jimmy Giuffre’s other Atlantic albums have been released on CD.
WESTERN SUITE was released by
Here at last – and with the original cover and liner notes – is the album on CD in the playing order that Giuffre intended. It runs only a bit over 37 minutes, but every minute is perfect.
In the meantime, some of you who have the Mosaic set have asked me for the original track order of the albums. With the advent of the home CD-burner – either as stand-alone audio equipment or as part of one’s computer – it is possible to reassemble these albums as they were meant to be heard.
Here are the original LP lineups:
JIMMY GIUFFRE (the original LP title of his first Capitol album):
“Four Brothers” “Someone to Watch Over Me” “Sultana” “A Ring-Tail Monkey” “Nutty Pine” “Wrought of Iron” “Do It!” “All for You” “Iranic” “I Only Have Eyes for You”
TANGENTS IN JAZZ:
“Scintilla One” “Finger Snapper” “Lazy Tones” “Scintilla Two” “Chirpin’ Time” “This Is My Beloved (Theme C)” “The Leprechaun” “Scintilla Three” “Rhetoric” “Scintilla Four”
THE JIMMY GIUFFRE CLARINET:
“So Low” “Deep Purple” “The Side Pipers” “My Funny Valentine” “Quiet Cook” “The Sheepherder” “Fascinatin’ Rhythm” “Down Home”
THE JIMMY GIUFFRE 3:
“Gotta Dance” “Two Kinds of Blues” “The Song is You” “Crazy She Calls Me” “Voodoo” “My All” “That's the Way It Is” “Crawdad Suite” “The Train and the River”
THE MUSIC MAN:
“Iowa Stubborn” “Goodnight My Someone” “Seventy-Six Trombones” “Marian the Librarian” “My White Knight” “The Wells Fargo Wagon” “It’s You” “Shipoopi” “Lida Rose (Will I Ever Tell You)” “Gary, Indiana” “Till There was You”
“Trav'lin’ Light” “The Swamp People” “The Green Country (New England Mood)” “Forty-Second Street” “Pickin’ ’Em Up and Layin’ ’Em Down” “The Lonely Time” “Show Me The Way To Go Home” “California Here I Come”
THE FOUR BROTHERS SOUND:
“Four Brothers” “Ode to Switzerland” “Blues in the Barn” “Space” “I Gotta Right to Sing the Blues” “Come Rain Or Come Shine” “Memphis in June” “Cabin in the Sky” “Ol’ Folks”
“Western Suite – “lst Movement: Pony Express” “2nd Movement: Apaches” “3rd Movement: Saturday Night Dance” “4th Movement: Big Pow Wow” “Topsy” “Blue Monk”
Return to Dr.Progresso Back to Top
If you are interested in obtaining any of the music discussed in this site, click on Ordering Information
I welcome feedback on these pages. I can be reached directly at twhite8 AT cox DOT net. Let me hear from you. --Dr. P