Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Jimmy Giuffre, RIP

For all the passing of iconoclasts not just in recent months (Klaus Dinger, Jules Dassin, Richard Widmark, Mikey Dread) but in recent years (Alice Coltrane, Arthur Lee, Syd Barrett) the obit in the New York Times announcing the departure of Jimmy Giuffre resounds within my own shell of mortality the most. I cannot specifically name why I feel as so, save that the sound of Giuffre's clarinet was a rare beauty in this world. Last year, when I pitched a few ideas for Stop Smiling's Jazz Issue, the forgotten Giuffre was foremost among them.

I could type about how Giuffre's playing influenced jazz men like John Zorn and Evan Parker, or that works like "Four Brothers" (the first multi-track jazz recording) is part of the Smithsonian collection, that "The Train and the River" opens epochal documentary Jazz on a Summer's Day and influenced folk like Bert Jansch and Tim Buckley, or how his appreciation for Claude Debussy led to a chamber group form of jazz, or that he eschewed piano before Sonny Rollins (or even his student and fellow Texan Ornette Coleman) did, but it's that singular music he created that remains at the end of this day.

The day after I heard the news, a long-searched for eBay item, the out of print ECM set Jimmy Giuffre 3: 1961, arrived in the mail and has been drifting through my house eversince, its space and somber, introspective mood perfect for these days of drizzle. What made Giuffre's death even more uncanny for me was that just the week before, I had had a conversation with this jazz guitarist about Giuffre's sublime trios (with Jim Hall and Bob Brookmeyer in its earliest incarnation, with Steve Swallow and Paul Bley a bit later on) as we drove through upstate New York on our way to Western Massachusetts. Our destination? Deerfield, which is where Mr. Giuffre passed away last Thursday.

Jimmy Giuffre 3: "Come Rain Or Come Shine"