"Yet if Giuffre is largely unacknowledged as a pioneer, he perhaps has only himself to blame. The extraordinary diversity of his musical output has made the exact nature of his contributions to jazz difficult to pinpoint for all but his most devoted fans. Yet with a little effort one can trace many lineages through Giuffre’s oeuvre, and more than one contemporary school of jazz could look to him as a forbear. Homage from the younger generation (whether of musicians or critics) has not, however, been at all apparent. Nor is it likely to be forthcoming.”
— Ted Gioia, West Coast Jazz: Modern Jazz in California, 1945-1960 (University of California Press, 1998)
Today is the release date for The Jimmy Giuffre 3 & 4: New York Concerts, a double album of previously unissued music recorded in 1965. I wrote about Giuffre and his legacy for a piece in Sunday’s Arts & Leisure section, mainly focusing on the rise and fall of his fortunes in the late 1950s and early ’60s, which set the stage for a “lost decade” that these ‘65 recordings help illuminate.
The piece had a strong subtext, which was Giuffre’s creeping resurgence as an influence and touchstone for younger composer-improvisers. I spoke with a few such musicians who have albums out or forthcoming, like trumpeter Dave Douglas and trombonist Samuel Blaser; I also spoke with drummer George Schuller, who has co-led a Giuffre rep band. Because it was a general-interest story and there were already so many important names flying around — Swallow! Bley! Brookmeyer! Hall! — I opted not to go much further in the “and hey, look who else digs Giuffre” department. So, no mention of Chris Speed, Ben Goldberg or James Falzone, who have all been Giuffre fans for some time.
I don’t regret those omissions, really, though I understand why someone looking for a different sort of article might. I do regret not giving some props to Ken Vandermark, whose Free Fall band (with Håvard Wiik on piano and Ingebrigt Håker Flaten on bass) was obviously named after Giuffre’s epochal 1962 album. When I thought about Vandermark, I mistakenly remembered Free Fall as an older project; had I realized that its most recent album was recorded in 2008, I surely would have included KV in the story, even though Free Fall is listed on his website as “on hiatus.”
In the end, I’m just happy that Jimmy Giuffre got some play in Arts & Leisure, and that I was able to get across some of what made him unique. As we know from recent history — cf. the Ted Gioia quote above — it was anything but a given that younger musicians would come around this way. And it’s heartening to think that there’s more still to come, especially once everyone has a chance to absorb the new release.