Jimmy Giuffre
[ Issue 11 ]

Jimmy Giuffre intrigues Emily Bronto

Bikwil salutes Jimmy Giuffre

Jimmy Giuffre

Fizzgig in this issue celebrates the work of jazz clarinettist and composer Jimmy Giuffre


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From the Back Verandah — Fizzgig

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Jimmy Giuffre (b. 1921) is best known as the jazz clarinettist who specialised in playing in its low, dark, chalumeau register. Remember The Train and the River, recorded in the late 50s with Jim Hall (guitar) and Ralph Peña (bass)? This tune was heard (in a different instrumentation) over the titles of the movie Jazz on a Summer’s Day (re-screened last September on SBS TV). Here are some comments by Whitney Balliett in his The Sound of Surprise (1959):

. . . a refreshing idea . . . limpid, mahogany-colored sound . . . fragile, intense counterpoint . . .

Giuffre was a tenor and baritone sax player, too. He also composed and arranged prolifically for bands of various sizes, though nothing he ever wrote will be as celebrated as his 1947 Four Brothers for Woody Herman’s Second Herd. This featured four saxes (three tenors and a baritone), scored in what William Russo’s Jazz Composition and Orchestration (1968) calls the “thickened line” (close parallel harmony). My own copy of Four Brothers is a prized 78 I picked up in the 60s for two bob.

On that low register business, by the way, Russo's book also quotes this (probably apocryphal) story:

. . . when Benny Goodman heard that Giuffre had been appointed a teacher at the School of Jazz in Lenox, and would teach the clarinet among other subjects, he remarked, “Who’s going to teach the upper register?”

Sadly, Giuffre today is said to be suffering from Parkinson's disease.

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