Neary 60 years ago, the Jimmy Guiffre 3 was honing its craft, combining the playing of succinct composed scores with incisive and skilful improvisation. In its endeavour it tilled new soil, veering away from the contrafacts of Broadway musical numbers and other popular song forms in favor of originally conceived themes and forms of the composer's invention. This allowed for a real-time elaboration of the material encoded in the score, which in turn served as a springboard for the imaginations of the musicians.
Guiffre, Bley and Swallow would go on to play pivotal roles in the evolution of modern jazz. The leader, as a teacher and working musician, inspired alternative approaches to the conception of the jazz line and the exploration of the colours of instrumentation in non-standards approach to form.
Pianist Paul Bley would go on to be a formidable voice in "the new thing." As a player of unparalleled taste and restraint who was the epitome of the thinking musician and an unshakable creative spirit, Bley was a beacon for those seeking out the experimental ground that jazz always needs to renew itself.
Steve Swallow rounds out the trio — a bassist who played a crucial role in the crucible years of post-modern jazz, from his work as a sideman with many prominent stylists to projects of his own, and who, in retrospect, stands as a transitional figure between the hard bop years and the modal revolution that swept jazz idiomatic styles in the 1970s and beyond.
This set of two CDs, despite the title, actually contains live sets from three different dates, two in Germany and one in New York City, all from 1961. The compositions are by Giuffre for the most part, with some penned by Paul Bley, Carla Bley, Thelonious Monk, Ornette Coleman, Gordon Jenkins and Vernon Duke.
The judicious use of space, and the pliable, sinuous and living lines make this a soothing and stimulating set of music to listen to, one that documents a fertile and exciting time in jazz history whose rewards we are still reaping.
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