Giuffre, Jimmy (actually, James Peter)

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Giuffre, Jimmy (actually, James Peter)

Giuffre, Jimmy (actually, James Peter), jazz wind player and composer, an effective and heartfelt improviser who has remained open to new trends and an original and gifted composer whose variety and depth is underestimated by most; b. Dallas, Tex., April 26, 1921. He studied at North Tex. State Teachers Coll. (bachelor’s degree, 1942); played in a U.S. Army band; thereafter played in the bands of Boyd Raeburn, Jimmy Dorsey (1947), and Buddy Rich (1948). He wrote ’Tour Brothers” in 1947 for Woody Herman; the piece, which featured the four Lester Young-inspired saxophonists in the band, has sophisticated line writing within the tenor parts, with frequent crossings. (Ironically, he joined Herman’s band only in 1949). In the 1950s, he worked regularly at the Lighthouse in Hermosa Beach, Calif. His clarinet playing, which featured a soft style that emphasized the lower register, won him several polls in the late 1950s; as a result, he briefly gave up his other instruments (saxophone, flute). He formed a trio with guitarist Jim Hall and bassist Ralph Pena (1956), then Bob Brookmeyer and no bass. He became active as a teacher, serving on the faculty of the New School for Social Research, N.Y., Columbia Teachers Coll., and the School of Jazz in Lenox, Mass. (c. 1957-61); he also published a book on jazz phrasing.

Giuffre formed an innovative trio with Paul Bley (piano) and Steve Swallow (bass) that played venues in the U.S. and toured in Europe (1961-62). He then led a trio with Don Friedman and Barre Phillips (1964-65). In the 1970s, his trio with Kiyoshi Tokunaga (bass) and Randy Kaye (drums) drew on Middle Eastern, African, and Asian sounds and techniques; he was now playing bass clarinet, soprano, alto, and tenor saxophones, and flute and alto flute. He taught at New England Cons. (1978-92). By the early 1980s, he added bass flute to his repertoire and led a quartet with Peter Levin (keyboards; later Mark Rossi), Bob Nieske (bass), and Kaye. In 1989 his trio with Bley and Swallow reunited at Sweet Basil in Manhattan, producing a live recording. In the mid-1990s, he was forced to stop performing as a result of Parkinson’s disease. For many years he has lived in Stockbridge, Mass.

Perhaps Giuffre’s most famous piece is The Train and the River, a kind of folk-blues suite, performed by his trio in the 1957 TV special The Sound of Jazz and in the 1958 Newport Jazz Festival film Jazz on a Summer’s Day. On ’Tangents” (1954) he wrote out melodic bass and drum parts instead of having them “walk.” His other compositions include “Pharoah” for brass (1956), “Hex” for jazz orch. (1960), “Mobiles” for clarinet and orch. (1961), “Orb,” quintet for clarinet and strings (1969), other pieces for solo instrument and orch., and film scores.


Tenors West (1955); Tangents in Jazz (1955); /. G. Three (1956); The Giuffre Clarinet (1956); Music for Brass (1957); Western Suite (1958); Trav’lin’ Light (1958); Four Brothers Sound (1958); Seven Pieces (1959); Lee Konitz Meets J. G. (1959); Easy Way (1959); Ad Lib (1959); Piece for Clarinet and String Orch. (1960); In Person (1960); Music for People, Birds, Butterflies and Mosquitoes (1972); Quiet Song (1974); River Chant (1975); Dragonfly (1983); Quasar (1985); Eiffel (1987); Liquid Dancers (1989). P. BLEYANDS . SWALLOW: Thesis (1961); Fusion (1961); Flight, Bremen 1961 (1961); Emphasis, Stuttgart 1961 (1961); Free Fall (1962); Diary of a Trio: Saturday (1989); Diary of a Trio: Sunday (1989). S. ROGERS: The Swinging Mr. Rogers (1955).


Jazz Phrasing and Interpretation (N.Y., 1969).

—Nicolas Slonimsky/Music Master Jazz and Blues Catalogue/Lewis Porter