Jimmy Giuffre, Free Fall Review
by Jeff Becker
The years between the release of Jimmy Giuffre’s ground-breaking 1962 album Free Fall and his return to the studio in 1971 with Night Dance have become known as the legendary clarinetist and saxophonist’s “lost decade,” a key period in his and jazz musical evolution which sadly went undocumented. That is until now with a two-disc set that will be available June 10th, 2014 on Elemental Music, distributed in the U.S. by INgrooves/Universal Music Distribution.
The release documents two 1965 performances in New York City, unheard for nearly 50 years, documenting a rare and revealing glimpse into that disco-graphical dark period. This captivating two-disc set, would be valuable solely for the brilliant music, which finds Giuffre leading trio and quartet line-ups and demonstrates his experiments in counterpoint and abstraction, creating a chamber-like setting and even ventures into avant-garde territory. The CD offers a much-needed insight into one of jazz’s most innovative thinkers at a key moment in his development.
These recordings are the latest treasures to be unearthed from the seemingly inexhaustible troves of producer/engineer George Klabin, who in the last few years has also released essential “lost” recordings on his Resonance Records imprint by Bill Evans (Live at Art D’Lugoff’s Top of the Village Gate) and the forthcoming Charles Lloyd (Manhattan Stories). Additionally Zev Feldman ushered Wes Montgomery’s newly acclaimed Echoes of Indiana Avenue through Resonance’s auspices.
The Jimmy Giuffre 3 & 4’s New York Concerts was brought to light through the passion and dedication of Klabin’s partner in these releases, producer Zev Feldman, who brought the tapes to Barcelona-based Distrijazz founder Jordi Soley. Sharing a similar enthusiasm for the music, Feldman and Soley co-founded Elemental Music label as a home for Feldman to release more catalog discoveries, unreleased tapes or reissues of out of print records from bygone labels.
The first disc was recorded in September 1965 at Judson Hall during Charlotte Moorman’s New York Festival of The Avant Garde, produced by saxophonist and jazz critic Don Heckman, on a triple bill with bands led by Heckman and Charles Lloyd. The concert marks the only performance by this particular trio with bassist Richard Davis and drummer Joe Chambers, who when interviewed for the CD booklet, had no recollection of the date even happening.
Disc two travels slightly back in time to May 1965, with a performance in an empty Wollman Auditorium on the campus of Columbia University, then 19-year-old Columbia student Klabin had recently been appointed head of the jazz department at WKCR-FM, the university’s radio station, and wanted to present original recordings as part of his show. He invited Giuffre with that goal in mind, and recorded his quartet – with Chambers, pianist Don Friedman, and bassist Barre Phillips. The pristine sound quality reveals Klabin’s prodigious talents at an early age, close-miking each musician and mixing live to a Crown 2-track tape recorder. “It’s George Klabin’s world of sound,” says Feldman with audible admiration. The release was mixed, mastered, and restored by Klabin and Fran Gala at the Resonance Records Studios in Beverly Hills.
The New York Concerts represent a few milestones beyond the staggeringly inventive sounds being made: they mark Giuffre’s first bands with a drummer in many years and a return to showcasing the tenor saxophone after a long period of focusing solely on the clarinet. This release provides context for the genius of Jimmy Giuffre, which Feldman hopes will spur increased attention for the oft-overlooked innovator. “I hope that this serves as the ignition for dialogue about who he was and why he should be remembered. I hope that people enjoy the music. I hope that we can learn from it. And I hope we keep the candle burning for Jimmy Giuffre and that he would be proud of what we’re doing here.”
Be sure to add this set to your collection, no serious jazz listener should be without this!