Sunday, August 23, 2009

The Jimmy Giuffre Clarinet (1956)

The other day I discovered probably a forgotten Jimmy Giuffre album, The Jimmy Giuffre Clarinet, and I thought it's necessary for this blog to remind his modern conceptions of jazz that seems too progressive (and so folky!) for his time.

  • The Jimmy Giuffre Clarinet
  • Recording Date: Mar 21, 1956-Mar 22, 1956
  • Release Date: Nov 14, 1956 by Atlantic (Catalog No. 1238)
  • Reissued by Savoy
  • Reissued on CD by Collectables, 2001, Cat. 6162
  • And also available in the box set: Complete Capitol & Atlantic Recordings of Jimmy Giuffre.

Album starts with a solo composition of Jimmy, called "So Low" while he is keeping the beat by tapping his feet on the floor. It’s a typical Giuffre piece: abstract, free, relaxed, folkloric and mostly playing in the lower register.

In the second tune, “Deep Purple” (composed by Mitchell Parish & Peter De Rose), Jimmy Rowles plays Celesta, an instrument from the piano family with a sound so close to children's music boxes. With Giuffre's tender accompany it really turns to a pleasant lullaby.

If you want to know how eager was Giuffre in exploring new territories in jazz, you must listen to a tune by him written for three flutes (Buddy Collette, Bud Shank & Harry Klee) and drums (Shelly Manne), called “The Side Pipers”. Also another example of a reconstructive approach to standards is evident in a odd interpretation of “My Funny Valentine” with Ralph Pena on Bass, Maury Berman on Bassoon, Dave Pell on English horn and Bob Cooper on Oboe. Can you name another artist with such a bizarre instrumentation in the hay days of Cool-mania and west coast craze? It’s not strange that Giuffre couldn’t find a producer or a label to record for, at least for ten years since his most daring and most avant-garde experiments in west coast music.
The concepts of endowing standards with the new rhythmic and harmonic ideas blossoms in “Fascinatin' Rhythm”, with master Shelly on drum and Jimmy Rowles doing his magic on piano.

Another Jimmy Giuffre Compositions, “Quiet Cook” belongs to the realm that Giuffre was eager to extend during the next decade. An atonal approach to jazz in trio, duo or solo, with or without a usual rhythm section. This is also the key concept of another piece in the album, “The Sheepherder” (Comp. by Giuffre) that consists of three Clarinets.

One of my favorite tunes in this albums is “Down Home” (By Giuffre), a relaxed and rich piece, so much in the tradition of cool music of the west coast, with three trumpet masters, Harry Edison , Jack Sheldon and Shorty Rogers.

I found it a key album to appreciate Giuffre’s music and an early effort of all those west coast cats to modernize their good old jazz.

--Ehsan Khoshbakht


  1. I am listening to it right now, first time, although I have been aware of Guiffre for a while. It's really quite an amazing album, but in terms of playing and composition. The writing for woodwind combinations is very artfully done, and there is a lot of meat in the compositions. You have a feeling throughout that he was really rejecting the more blustery, showboating side of jazz and trying to dig deep and discover deeper possibilities. A very sincere album indeed.

  2. I think that this album is one of the best ever composed in order to studying for example. Great!