Personnel: Steve Swallow (electric bass); Jimmy Giuffre (clarinet, soprano saxophone); Paul Bley (piano).
The venerable Sunnyside label has re-released the two Life of a Trio nights -- originally issued in the early '90s on CD by France's Owl label -- that featured the 1989 reunion of the 1961-1962 Jimmy Giuffre 3 of Giuffre on reeds, pianist Paul Bley, and bassist Steve Swallow. The first evening, Saturday, December 16, began with a solo clarinet improvisation by Giuffre, followed by "Black Ivory," a duet between Giuffre and Bley, and then "Owl Eyes," by solo Bley, with the tension heating up as Bley duets with Swallow on "Endless Melody," until they come together all too briefly (5:22) for "Turns." Effortless, spontaneous, adventurous, and even moving, this trio released three of the most provocative -- and all but ignored -- recordings in '60s jazz: Fusion and Thesis for Verve in 1961 and the undisputed radical classic Free Fall for Columbia in 1962. Live performances from the period have appeared on Hat and ECM. As the trio plays together -- with Swallow on his electric bass -- on "Turns," time seems to be stripped away, and the microtonal and pointillistic investigations in collective improvisation embarked upon nearly three decades previously are as current as the next breath. And indeed they are, as there were no rehearsals, no extra or alternate takes, nothing but the music as it happened. There are only two other trio pieces (the others in two parts each) on Saturday night; the other pieces making up the set are solos by Bley, Swallow, and Giuffre on soprano. No matter. What comes out is an investigation of sound from the inside out, textually, tonally, spatially. Extraordinary. ~ Thom Jurek