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Jimmy Giuffre: The Complete Capitol & Atlantic Recordings of Jimmy Giuffre

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Jimmy Giuffre has become a patron saint of jazz intellectualism and an avant-garde patriarch. His experimental adventurousness is repeatedly pointed to as the jazz antecedent for disparate activities in rarefied quarters of composition and improvised music. Unaccompanied solos, unorthodox ensemble configurations, extended orchestral compositions, overdubbing: Giuffre was there early on, if not first, on all counts. Yet, the rush to canonize this composer, saxophonist, and clarinetist, has obscured the content of his music, and the impetus for his unlikely voyage from big band sax sections to the edge of the known jazz universe in less than a decade. The 6-CD The Complete Capitol & Atlantic Recordings of Jimmy Giuffre details his evolution in the critical period of 1954 through 1958, shining considerable light on one of the most intriguing figures of post-war jazz.

Giuffre’s music underwent several cycles of consolidating concepts and making bold advances during this period. The first such cycle is represented by the two Capitol albums included in the collection. ’54’s Four Brothers is a summation of Guiffre’s career to date; interestingly, it even contains a West Coasted version of the title piece, the ’47 Woody Herman hit that was Giuffre’s first claim to fame as a writer. Among the retooled standards and the occasionally notable work of Giuffre, trumpeter Jack Sheldon, and drummer Shelley Manne, there are two decidedly forward-looking works, the through-composed “Sultana” and the solo-laced “Wrought in Iron.” More important than their cool features, these pieces hint at Giuffre’s interest in folk music, which became an integral part of his work.

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