Jimmy Guiffre & The Art Of Creative Integrity by Tim Price

My man Tim Price wrote this nice piece for the Rico MySpace blog:

It's time for a lot of saxophonists to learn the language of jazz on the saxophone, and listen to the playing of Sonny Stitt, Hank Mobley, Sonny Rollins, Cannonball Adderly, Eric Dolphy, Sonny Criss, Vince Wallace, Bert Wilson, Charlie Parker, Dexter Gordon, Stan Getz, John Coltrane, Lester Young, Chu Berry, Wardell Grey, Harold Ashby, Frank Lowe, Serge Chaloff and Ben Webster. Sprinkle in some Joe Farrell, Lee Konitz, Dick Johnson, Bill Perkins, Zoot and Al, Paul Gonzalves, Sal Nistico, Ronnie Cuber, Charlie Mariano and Steve Lacy. This is far more comprehensive than merely copying the current hip players on the scene. Go to the source! Check out the players the young cats got their inspiration from. These guys are lessons, as was Jimmy Guiffre who in my opinion was as important as anyone ever.

When I was 22 and lived in the Bronx, scuffling and looking for gigs after Berklee, I went to hear Jimmy at the Guggenheim Museum in NYC. I had no money ( this was 1973 ) and barely had the subway fare to get there. BUT, I had to. It was his trio and the museum gave us pillows to sit on to dig the concert. It cost 3 dollars to get in. I watched the man, who was someone I considered a gift to the clarinet and saxes.I always wanted to hear him, since buying " Western Suite" as a 9th grade kid. My grandmother always asked me about the record cover, with the cactus on it. It was pretty cool and quite a cover to this day. So the concert went down and I approached Jimmy about how much I dug him. He spoke about using string ligatures that Kal Opperman hipped him to and how he thought about using less to get more in solos.What it was and I still remember it, was this; patterns that have groups of 5 and 7 notes. If you can get these kinds of patterns under your fingers and in all keys, it makes for some interesting possibilities. For example, a 5-note pattern might be: G, up to C, up to F, down to D, down to A. Repeat this a bunch of times, getting it up to a fast clip. Then move this up chromatically. This kind of works over dominant 7 chords, or minor 7th chords, given that there is no 3rd. You can alter this pattern to fit just about any chord type. For example, for a Gmaj7 5 (or flat5), use the following: G, up to B, up to F, down to D, down to C. Then he spoke of a 7-note pattern that works nicely over dom. 7th and sus chords : for a G7sus, play C, up to F, up to A, up to B, down to G, down to D, down to A. If it is a minor 7th chord you are playing over, simply flat the B. I thought this guy was from another world...here I was with one of my jazz heroes and he just started to lay information on me. He told me about making reeds with Opperman, which years later I checked out. I was making oboe reeds then from my Joe Viola lessons, and this seemed spot on. He also sat me down and told me about art should serve the individual rather than the individual serving the art. Plus, in jazz, human life is always more important than an established method, pick and choose from the best of all styles that works for you, no matter what category of music it's branched in.

Jimmy stressed there should be a naturally evolving process of research which ceases to become concrete in its finished product. All this and for free! He gave me his phone number, which I still remember had the exchange digits of letters and numbers. ( my mother worked for the phone company, and this stuff was always spoke of. ) I went back to my pad on Fordam Rd in the Bronx and wrote these ideas down, and tried them quietly on my flute at 2 am.

Jimmy was a real innovator, a person who lived for the music. You can imagine my sorrow at hearing he passed last week at 86. He was a great clarinetist, composer and arranger whose life journey through jazz led him from writing the Woody Herman "Four Brothers" through minimalist, drummerless trios to striking experimental orchestral works. He was 86 and lived in West Stockbridge, Mass. The cause was pneumonia, brought about by complications of Parkinson's disease, said his wife of 46 years, Juanita, who is his only survivor. He played bass flute to soprano saxophone, baritone saxophone and tenor and soprano but it was the clarinet that gave him a signature sound. His album, "Tangents in Jazz" did away with chordal instruments like piano or guitar two years before Sonny Rollins did so; his trios from 1956 to 1961 were without a drummer, prefiguring the classical-timbred music of vangardist jazz circles in the 1980s.

What made Giuffre important to big-band folks was "Four Brothers," a big hit for Woody Herman's Second Herd in 1947. It established the characteristic Herman frontline sound of three tenor saxophones and a baritone saxophone, played fast, in harmony and without vibrato.

In the 1940s, he became a freelance arranger and, in some cases, saxophonist, for a number of big bands. In the early 1950s, West Coast cool jazz began, and Mr. Giuffre took a big part. Playing great tenor saxophone, he was in small groups led by Shorty Rogers, Shelly Manne and Howard Rumsey.The 50s versions of the Jimmy Giuffre Three with the guitarist Jim Hall and the bassist Ralph Pena, then Mr. Hall and the trombonist Bob Brookmeyer were things that influenced me on a life long basis. Jimmy was solidly established as the leader of amazing groups when he enlisted pianist Paul Bley and bassist Steve Swallow in 1961. With this trio, he would take listeners into challenging terrain and offer the avant-garde a different direction . Often taking its style cues from modernism, this group mixed pointillism and atonality while moving seamlessly between composition and free improvisation. Free Fall, from 1962, was the group's ultimate recording and one of many of Giuffre's most radical statements, balancing duos and trios with unaccompanied clarinet improvisations that explored spontaneous structure, and brevity. Quietly revolutionary and brilliant in itself, this music was the culmination of the "Third Stream" synthesis and also paved the way for a younger generations. Today it still sounds fresh. The Giuffre-Hall-Brookmeyer trio is immortalized in the opening sequence of the film "Jazz on a Summer's Day," playing its best-known tune, "The Train and the River."From the 50s on, Giuffre taught music, initially at the Lenox School of Jazz, the late-summer educational conference in Lenox, Mass., which existed from 1957 to 1960. Talk about Jazz Educators!

It was at Lenox that Mr. Giuffre first encountered Ornette Coleman, a scholarship student at the school in 1959. By this time he recorded "Free Fall," which included some solo improvisations. Though the album was a inspirational vision to many musicians like myself and others. That was Jimmy's " Love Supreme" After "Free Fall" Giuffre made no albums for 10 years. He taught at the New School in and New York University in New York City, and in 1978 he joined the faculty of the New England Conservatory of Music, teaching there until the early 1990s. He also created another version of the Jimmy Giuffre Three, inspired by the electronic instruments of the band Weather Report, he made a series of quartet recordings for the Italian label Soul Note. Upon talking to him on the phone when I was leaving Harry James big band, he expressed a huge love of that band and Joe and Wayne, and told me about the elements he heard in it. Another conversation I never forgot. Later on of my favorite recording were with the French saxophonist André Jaume, who recorded Mr. Giuffre several times on his own label, CELP; as a duo they made a live album, "Momentum" . The 1961 Jimmy Giuffre trio, with Bley and Swallow, reunited for performances and recordings, including "The Life of a Trio" and "Conversations with a Goose".

I never heard anything like Jimmy and never forgot the sincerity in which he spoke to me as a young musician. His inspiration was something else. Genius is a rare commodity in any art form, thank god jazz had Jimmy Guiffre. He covered every conceivable area of creativity during the course of his extraordinary career.

This multi reedist/composer might very well be jazz's last bona fide genius. He was a controversial figure amongst musicians and critics. Whatever one calls it, however, there is no questioning the originality of his vision. Jimmy created music of enormous sophistication and passion that was unlike anything else in jazz. He was able to fuse jazz's visceral components with contemporary classical music's formal and harmonic methods in an utterly unselfconscious and convincing way. The best of his work is on a level with any music of the late 20th century, jazz ,classical or modern. Jimmy was a an amazing spontaneous improviser, a master of structure and sound, and one of the most versatile saxophone players I have ever heard. His control is unparalleled

He sure will be missed.

Thanks for your inspiration Jimmy!

Tim Price

Tim's Web Site


Anonymous said...


MonksDream said...

Here's from the Wikipedia entry on pointillism, which seems to be left undefined in the article. It seems like a very minor logical leap to adapt the definition to the aural arts:

Pointillism is a style of painting in which small distinct points of primary colors create the impression of a wide selection of secondary and intermediate colors.

Contents [hide]
1 Practice
2 Notable Artists
3 See also
4 References

The technique relies on the perceptive ability of the eye and mind of the viewer to mix the color spots into a fuller range of tones and is related closely to Divisionism, a more technical variant of the method. It is a style with few serious practitioners and is notably seen in the works of Seurat, Signac and Cross. The term Pointillism was first coined by art critics in the late 1880s to ridicule the works of these artists and is now used without its earlier mocking connotation.

The practice of Pointillism is in sharp contrast to the more common methods of blending pigments on a palette or using the many commercially available premixed colors. Pointillism is analogous to the four-color CMYK printing process used by some color printers and large presses, and to a lesser degree to computer monitors and television sets which use tiny dots of primary red, green, and blue to render color.

Neuroplasticity is a key element of observing a pointillistic image. While two individuals will observe the same photons reflecting off a photorealistic image and hitting their retinas, someone whose mind has been primed with the theory of pointillism will see a very different image as the image is interpreted in the visual cortex.[1]

[edit] Practice

Pointillism in printmaking: a chromolithography of a King Kelly baseball card from 1888.If red, blue and green light (the additive primaries) are mixed, the result is something close to white light. The brighter effect of pointillist colours could rise from the fact that subtractive mixing is avoided and something closer to the effect of additive mixing is obtained even through pigments.

The painting technique used to perform pointillistic color mixing is at the expense of traditional brushwork which could be used to delineate texture.

Pointillism also refers to a style of 20th-century music composition, used by composers like Anton Webern.

[edit] Notable Artists
Chuck Close
Henri-Edmond Cross
John Roy
Georges-Pierre Seurat
Paul Signac
Maximilien Luce

[edit] See also

Zach Frotton said...

Whew...well said, man. He will be missed.