In his long and wandering career, Jimmy Giuffre, who died on April 24, 2008 at age 86, defied easy, tidy summaries of his artistic vision. Moving from right to left and back, from swing to avant-garde, he wrote the Woody Herman tune “Four Brothers” but was also a free-jazz forefather. And although he was one of the early pioneers in chordless groups-in 1955, before Sonny Rollins and Ornette Coleman-one of Giuffre’s more pioneering chapters involved the pianist Paul Bley, in a trio also featuring bassist Steve Swallow.
Although failing to ignite much attention during their brief period together in the early ’60s, their albums 61 and Free Fall are now considered classics, early and important rumblings of the improvisational revolution to come. The trio reunited occasionally and put out a couple of albums in the early ’90s.