№ 4

Jimmy Giuf­fre 3

Bre­men & Stuttgart 1961 (Eminem)

—Point of Departure

This arti­cle appeared ear­lier this year in Moment’s Notice, Point of Depar­ture’s quar­terly series of reviews.

Pro­ducer Mar­tin David­son sal­vaged trea­sure with Bre­men & Stuttgart 1961. This two-disc set includes com­plete reis­sues of hat ART’s early 1990s CDs Flight, Bre­men 1961 and Empha­sis, Stuttgart 1961 (with Art Lange’s orig­i­nal liner notes), along with six – yes, six! – pre­vi­ously unis­sued per­for­mances from the Bre­men con­cert. “Used to Be” and an unused take of “Trud­gin’,” recorded in New York City six months before the trio’s Euro­pean tour – and left off ECM’s reis­sue of the Verve dates – are also here, on CD in pris­tine shape for the first time.

I’m not sure I need to make another case for how extra­or­di­nary the edi­tion of the Jimmy Giuf­fre 3 with Paul Bley and Steve Swal­low was. It was – and remains – extra­or­di­nary, one of the irre­place­able groups in the his­tory of jazz. These live per­for­mances were an arche­o­log­i­cal won­der when they were acquired from Ger­man radio in 1992. At that point, there were just three record­ings avail­able, on Verve (Fusion and The­sis) and on Colum­bia (Free Fall). Lange called it the offi­cial canon.

Bre­men and Stuttgart included new mate­r­ial: Jimmy Giuffre’s “Call of the Cen­taur,” “Trance,” and the largely through-composed five-movement “Suite for Ger­many,” as well as Carla Bley’s “Pos­tures.” But most of all, they just gave us more: more from a group that had lasted less than two years and then, in the early ‘90s, was being re-examined by an entirely new gen­er­a­tion of musicians.

Now we have some­thing else to pon­der. Among Emanem’s dis­cov­er­ies are three piano-bass duos from Bre­men: “Ba-Lue Boli­var Ba-Lues Are,” “I Can’t Get Started,” and “Com­pas­sion for P.B.” David­son is delight­fully direct about his deci­sions. He’s quite sure he slot­ted the new trios (“Jesús Maria,” “Carla,” “Ven­ture”) into the set cor­rectly. “How­ever,” he wrote, “I have no idea where the duo pieces fit­ted in, so I have used them as a break between the two concerts.”

These duets are excep­tional finds. Steve Swal­low has, even in these early days (he’d just turned 21), a com­plete aware­ness of sound and space and his role in these new forms. Paul Bley was, well, Paul Bley even then (he turned 29 mid-tour), pro­duc­ing a pre­scient, per­fectly bal­anced micro­cos­mos. The choices epit­o­mize the era — Monk, show tune, Ornette – and, as this con­cert hall morphs into a cof­fee house (or the Hill­crest Club), you see, in less hyper­bolic ways, shades of Bley’s famous 2002 quip: “I’ve spent many years learn­ing how to play as slow as pos­si­ble, and then many more years learn­ing how to play as fast as pos­si­ble. I’ve spent many years try­ing to play as good as pos­si­ble.” (He fin­ished by say­ing, “At the present I’m try­ing to spend as many years learn­ing how to play as bad as possible.”)

Com­pas­sion” is played expo­nen­tially quicker than Coleman’s orig­i­nal quar­tet on Tomor­row Is the Ques­tion nearly three years ear­lier. (Did Bley learn this from Ornette in Los Ange­les?) And to put the duo – and the phrase “as good as pos­si­ble” – in con­text: at the end of 1961, Bill Evans, still mourn­ing the death of Scott LaFaro barely six months ear­lier, had begun play­ing with bassist Chuck Israels. Hind­sight makes it clear: Bley and Swal­low were their nat­ural peers.