Jimmy Guiffre 3: 1961, Verve (ECM re 1992)


From Fusion:

Selection 1: Jesus Maria


Selection 2: Scootin’ about


From Thesis

Selection 3: Carla


Jimmy Giuffre (clarinet) Paul Bley (piano) Steve Swallow (bass): original releases on Verve:

MGV 8397   The Jimmy Giuffre 3 – Fusion  – recorded Olmstead Sound Studios, NYC, March 3, 1961

V/V6 8402   The Jimmy Giuffre 3 – Thesis – recorded Olmstead Sound Studios, NYC, August 4, 1961



I was about to draft a long and piercing analysis of this haunting iconic work, when I found AllMusic had already anticipated my every insight, so I will step back and let AllMusic’s Thom Jurek walk you through the finer points:

“This reissue of Fusion and Thesis, the two albums the new Jimmy Giuffre 3 made in 1961, prior to their breakthrough and breakup in 1962, is nothing short of a revelation musically. Originally produced by Creed Taylor, who was still respectable back then, the two LPs have been complete remixed and remastered by ECM proprietor and chief producer Manfred Eicher and Jean Philippe Allard and contain complete material from both sessions resulting in one new track on Fusion and three more on Thesis.


The music is Giuffre at his finest — at that point, finding a language with his two collaborators, pianist Paul Bley and bassist Steve Swallow (who hadn’t made the permanent switch to electric then) — that was outside even the avant-garde at the time, yet in the tradition enough for some listeners and critics to be able to hold onto as modern jazz.


Both recordings make use of a profound use of subtlety in gesture — this is more true of Giuffre and Bley than Swallow, but without a drummer, the guy had a tough gig to hold down — and a creative use of space, one that allowed for a free contrapuntal interplay between musicians while keeping their distance in order to keep the music in front of them. In other words, space was used as a way to communicate what not to do rather than what to play.


While most improvisations did stick to ideas based on chord changes, there are moments, many of them on Thesis, where the formal structures slipped into the ether and gave way to an improvisation that used silence as a cue to innovate and improvise… The use of this space is brought to light in the Eicher/Allard remix which highlights and accents the physical distances the three men were playing from one another in the studio.


While Fusion features primarily the compositions of Giuffre in his style of accenting counterpoint á la Debussy and Milhaud within a melodic framework, and making the counterpoint and its resultant interaction with other players the still point of harmonic invention… There are no corners in this music, no jagged edges, everything is rounded off, if not smooth, then at least warm — no matter how complex the music becomes it has no air of academic elitism or dry didacticism about it, the emotions are transparent and expressed with understatement and grace.


This reissue is perhaps, along with Free Fall, one of the most essential documents regarding the other side of early-’60s jazz. Giuffre falls clearly between the cracks of the then emergent avant-guardists like Coltrane’s quartet, Cecil Taylor, Eric Dolphy, and Ornette’s band, and the hard boppers like Horace Silver, Art Blakey, Hank Mobley, and Horace Parlan. Giuffre didn’t straddle fences; on Fusion and Thesis, he just walked through them.


Jimmy Guiffre, like Eric Dolphy, is emerging (to me at least) as one of the less-recognised original creative figures of modern jazz (not at LJC of course). Once you get past investor-collector-lust for 1500-series Blue Notes it is good to seek out stimulating thought-provoking interesting music on vintage vinyl. There is plenty more of that to be found, if you know where to look, or are willing to search.

The first selection Jesus Maria  is one I return to. It is all-but “tempo-less” , more like half-speed, time suspended, it constantly finds you pulling back on the accelerator, to stay with the stately pace, with its fragments of melody half-launched only to peter out, and a rigid determination to remain “slow”. It maddeningly reminds me of a composition I can’t quite put my finger to. As you play and replay tracks, some dig their claws into your consciousness, others evaporate. Here’s the thing, your favourites today will change, as this music gets under your skin.


The gatefold is not quite Francis Wolff photography, but still good. ECM use the darkroom trademark film camera authenticity –  file off the edges of the enlarger negative carrier, which increases the printed picture area by a few millimetres to include the film strip edge (sometimes the film  brand) and part of the film sprocket guide holes, together with the picture. It burns in to give a ragged darkened frame around the picture, with rounded corners, confirming what you see is exactly what the photographer saw in his viewfinder, the authentic vision, not something recomposed after the event, and real film, not digital.

I love it when I pass an East-end hipster in the street toting a Leica film-camera, like they were Cartier-Bresson, good on for them. Ilford, Fuji or Kodak black and white –  delightfully period. I cut my teeth on Ilford HP5 and Kodak TriX, 400 ASA.  Somewhere, film and vinyl are analog medium, brothers under the skin. Of course you can achieve the same result in seconds in Photoshop, but where’s the magic in that? This is about magic.


 Vinyl: ECM 2×33 1992

Despite being hardly played, not quite as silent as the ECM legend suggests, a few clicks and pops, surface noise despite cleaning,  with origins in the manufacturing process, and a slight warp, reminding one of what used to be an all-too frequent occurrence in the final years of vinyl,  imperfections in manufacture fuelling the migration to The Evil Silver Disc™


Typical ECM, no liner notes as such, as though the title “1961” told you the most important thing you needed to know. In a way, it does.  I still can’t credit that these recordings originate in the year 1961, entirely disconnected from the rest of the jazz scene, perhaps from a parallel universe, yes, 1961, but a different 1961, not the one most people think they know about.


Collector’s Corner

AllMusic’s gentle dig at Creed Taylor (when he was still respectable)  may be  a trifle harsh, Taylor did produce great work for Verve 1960-67,  but just when jazz seemed destined for the scrap heap in the ’70s, Creed Taylor came to the rescue with CTI Records, offering us George Benson, Hubert Laws, Eumir Deodata,  Wes Montgomery, Antonio Carlos Jobim … well, may be not so harsh a judgement after all.  I had one or two at the time, but a jazz wrong turn, I cringe on hearing any today.

If CTI Records has its following, I’m sure it does, so too must ECM. Its catalogue of  bleak impressionistic soundscapes are great if your idea of a good evening in is sharing a windswept tent on a forlorn Norwegian mountainside with Jan Garbarek, Terje Rypdal, Eberhard Weber, Keith Jarrett, John Abercrombie, Pat Metheney, and Ralph Towner.

There may be more interesting ECM material I have not had the time and inclination to seek out. May be you have some suggestions, may be there are some ECM gems like this Guiffre that stand out from the pack. Even some CTI that bear up well on today’s turntable.

But remember, that’s this 2015, not some other different one.

30 thoughts on “Jimmy Guiffre 3: 1961, Verve (ECM re 1992)

  1. diggin’ on that thread. i’m really surprised that your excitment for this record didn’t lead you to endorse more of Giuffre’s 60’s genius music in your great collection. of course your platter is always full of Blue Note gems – which is a bliss for us. but it’s a cruel hole in your crates

    • The LJC collection is reaching critical mass, approaching two thousand records, now stored across three rooms in the house. Something has to give, possibly the floor.

      More worrying is shifting taste boundaries. Posting a selection from the Baddest Hubbard recently was a bad move. It got me across the electric instrument threshold, and now I’ve got all five Hubbard CTI albums on order.

      What next? A basement extension?

  2. This is stellar music. It really set my imagination on fire when I heard it in college (2002 or so…still plenty of decades after it was made!). Now that I know Giuffre’s background much more extensively, as well as the West Coast backdrop he emerged from, this music is a testamnet to artistry and never settling for only one course when you feel that that way of thinking may be exhausted.

  3. Tallking about gems from there CTI catalogue, take Blue Moses (CTI 6016), a Randy Weston record. There title piece of this LP was still called Gnawa (Blue Moses). Musicians include Hubbard, Ron Carter, Jim Buffington, Airto. You do get to hear Randy on electric piano and yes, there is an orchestra playing arrangements by Don Sebesky (who also conducts). It sounds very much like a record made in 1972, but the music is really pretty awesome.

    • Sorry, this was meant as a reply to Justin’s February 12 post – maybe move it there, LJC?

      Tallking about gems from there CTI catalogue, take Blue Moses (CTI 6016), a Randy Weston record. There title piece of this LP was still called Gnawa (Blue Moses). Musicians include Hubbard, Ron Carter, Jim Buffington, Airto. You do get to hear Randy on electric piano and yes, there is an orchestra playing arrangements by Don Sebesky (who also conducts). It sounds very much like a record made in 1972, but the music is really pretty awesome.

  4. I see this one was pressed again last year (a reissue of a reissue…) on ECM, 180 gram vinyl (so won׳t get warped too easily). Wondering if the mastering & pressing quality is the same as the 1992 pressing ? Generally i don׳t trust modern pressings too much so i wonder if they used the previous masters or messed it up with some modern day digital processing…

  5. I do not often post but could not resist the urge to list some of my favorite ECM albums. After holding them at arm’s length as more like muzak than jazz I became a convert due to the prodding and gentle mocking of a very good friend and ECM fan, Mark Anderson. I became such a fan of the label that when it came time for Mark to sell off his entire LP collection I agreed to buy all of his ECM LPs – all 200 of them!

    Here is my top 20 ECM albums (in order) –

    1) Conference of the Birds – Dave Holland (essential, mostly outside)
    2) Afrika Pepperbird – John Surman (haunting, frenetic and calm – both)
    3) Old & New Dreams – Old & New Dreams (Cherry, Redman, Blackwell, Haden – nuff said)
    4) Free at Last – Mal Waldron (darkly beautiful)
    5) El Corazon – Don Cherry & Ed Blackwell (gorgeous duo LP)
    6) Contrasts – Sam Rivers (same high-level playing as his Blue Note work)
    7) Ballad of the Fallen – Charlie Haden (epic)
    8) Special Edition – Jack DeJohnette (nearly perfect quartet LP – Murray & Blythe kill!)
    9) Underwear – Bobo Stenson (worth the effort to find this and the $30 and up it will cost)
    10) Quartet – Enrico Rava (presence of Roswell Rudd here makes this a must)
    11) Nice Guys – Art Ensemble of Chicago (not for everyone, but it is essential)
    12) The Struggle Continues – Dewey Redman (lovely in/out date from the tenor legend)
    13) Untitled – DeJohnette / New Directions (smokin’ LP, DeJohnette is amazing!)
    14) Illusion Suite – Stanley Cowell (one of my favorite trio LPs)
    15) Deer Wan – Kenny Wheeler (this may be the perfect ECM record – whatever that means)
    16) The Koln Concert – Keith Jarrett (cannot hang with Jarrett often but this solo set gets me)
    17) Terje Rypdal – Terje Rypdal (Garbarek, Stenson – sometimes you just need some oboe!)
    18) The New Quartet – Gary Burton (love vibes, Burton’s a genius, & Goodrick on guitar is cool)
    19) Bright Size Life – Pat Metheny (Mark would scoff at any list without Metheny – this is my fav)
    20) In Europe – DeJohnette / New Directions (fun, live date from this tight, tight group!)


  6. This has been reissued recently by ECM. Exactly like the ’92 version.

    Regarding the ECM catalogue, I’ve been listening to a real oddball: Wolfgang Dauner’s “Output”. I agree with above: Rivers’ “Contrasts” is a knockout.

  7. All of cjp123’s suggestions are aces. I like Motian’s ECM release “Dance” even better; the last date for the great David Izenzohn. Even some of the more stereotypical “ECM Sound” records by Gateway and Enrico Rava are very enjoyable, and Collin Walcott’s records sitar records with Dave Holland and Jack DeJohnette were (unsurprisingly) better than anything he did with Oregon….

  8. I’m glad you have bought — and enjoy — 1961. It’s a lovely package.

    Others have mentioned notable ECM releases. There’s a lot (an awful lot) I wouldn’t give house room to but there’s some that is essential to the continuing, unfolding story of jazz. Pretty well anything Tomasz Stanko has recorded for ECM (especially the earlier 90s recordings), Parker/Bley/Phillips’ Sankt Gerold, some Dave Holland, some John Surman (Adventure Playground), Paul Bley (Open, to Love)… All unmissable, I think.

  9. Let’s add Wolfgang Dauner’s “Output” to that list!

    1961, as well as some other ECM ‘classics’ (including Sam Rivers’ “Contrasts”) have been remastering and reissued on vinyl recently.

  10. In this exact moment i give a listening to a Creed Taylor production , Joe Farrell Quartet and the Outback album…i have spent a few money for good sounding albums…about ECM i will remember to this audience s the first album in catalogue by Mal Waldron , free at last or the the rare Marion Brown and Bennie Maupin album made for this label.

  11. No, the photography isn’t Francis Wolff, but for all the accolades that Wolff deserves, it’s nice to see a more modern photojournalistic approach to the photographs on this LP. Very straight, no flash, available light. I think the top image inside the gatefold is quite good and deserves to be there. The middle photo is a common composition but still worthwhile. The bottom photo just misses, with what I think is a music stand in the background interfering with the pipe he is smoking. The back cover photo is a terrific compostion, shooting through the mic stands. Nice to see the whole recording studio in this image shot from above. Gives me a better perspective on it. It also appears that a fair amount of burning the corners was done in the darkroom. A little obvious for my taste, but common for the time period. We used to call that the “hand of god” burning technique.

    The grain structure on newer film formulations like Kodak’s TMAX 400 were much better than Tri-X, but the tonal values in Tri-X were superb.

    I think I read that Rock n Roll photo god Jim Marshall (think Jimi Hendrix at Monterey, Janis Joplin with her bottle of booze in the dressing room) claimed he didn’t crop his images. That’s nice, but as a photo-J instructor, we teach students to crop, then crop again until the message in the image is at its strongest. Today’s autofocus cameras are actually taking composition backwards, forcing shooters to compose based on where the focusing point is. Whoever shot these images did a terrific job of composing, and capturing the moment. Well done, LJC!

  12. Guiffre was not on my radar, but he is now. Thanks.

    I am a bit shocked at the AllMusic representation of Creed Taylor. I have been using them as a reference dating back to the days you had to buy their reference books (gasp) and have great respect for their reviews. Some of Taylor’s CTI work is not only great, but legendary even. Any and all of Hubbard’s work for the label, Turrentine’s “Sugar” and “Don’t Mess With Mister T”, Joe Farrell’s amazing run of soul-jazz albums, heck even the early one’s by George Benson are pretty damn good. I would also agree with Justin on Jobim’s “Stone Flower,” I got a copy of that on vinyl a couple years back and it’s excellent. Not to mention Bob James’ “One,” “Two” and “Three” if you’re into that kind of thing.

    Pretty surprising assessment considering that if you search AllMusic for the above records, they all get great ratings and reviews.

  13. note with pleasure that i am not alone in opposing the unitarian view of an all-Blue Note world. There is so much beauty elsewhere. Creed Taylor bashing: CT made some very fascinating sides for Verve (two distinct LP’s) with various groups led by Gil Evans, with Gil himself on piano Fascinating music with top soloists (Wayne Shorter, Kenny Burrell, Phil Woods).
    I am glad that Jimmy Giuffre gets the recognition due to him. Thank you Andrew.

  14. Very harsh on Creed Taylor. CTI did some great stuff with Freddie Hubbard (Red Clay and Straight Life) and Stanley Turrentine (Sugar). Jobim’s Stone Flower is almost the only album of his I can listen to with continued pleasure.

  15. I have what I think is the original pressing of Fusion (deep groove with strange symbols in the deadwax) which I picked up cheaply from my LRS. It sounds pretty good and has been on intermittent rotation for a while now.

        • Andy: MGM records came after Verve Inc. and the change was around 1960/1961. I never saw a Verve Inc. copy of Fusion and I have always assumed that none exists. You may have a very first pressing still using the Verve Inc. mould, whence the deep groove. Anyway, your DG copy is a curiosity.

  16. Oh, I should add that there are some ECM gems, though my taste tends to run like yours so am not so much into the artists you mention. But a couple of favorites: Dave Holland “”Conference of the Birds”; Paul Bley “Open, To Love” and “Paul Bley with Gary Peacock”; Marion Brown “Afternoon of a Georgia Faun”; “Music Improvisation Company”; Mal Waldron “Free at Last”; Paul Motian “Conception Vessel”; Julian Priester “Love, Love”; Sam Rivers “Contrasts”. So that’s a pretty diverse group than what I think many folks (and for a while, myself included) thought of the ECM label.

    • cjp123, that’s a great ECM starter list, to which I’ll add Barre Phippips “Mountainscapes”. As I mentioned in a previous post, Sam Rivers “Contrasts” is a knockout album.

      Some of the ECM catalog wanders into the realm of “world music”, but they are mostly all sonic gems. The Guiffre reissue, or course, was not an original ECM product, so one should not expect it to posses the ECM sound.

  17. I am a huge, huge Giuffre fan, and cherish my original vinyl copy of “Free fall” (which had a horrible vinyl reissue recently.) I have both the originals of these records on Verve and a more recent ECM vinyl reissue because I wanted the extra tracks. I dare say my ECM reissue sounds to my ears better than the Verve issues–maybe because the pressing is superb. This may be an instance where a more recent reissue than the original 1992 pressing might produce a better sound. If I am not mistaken, my version was pressed at Pallas. I do think collectors focus way too much on Blue Note, though that makes it easier and less expensive for me to get good sounding vinyl issues of records that were pressed 50 years ago. Case in point–just got a great sounding copy of Valdo Williams “New Advanced Jazz” for $15. Valdo Williams, you ask? Maybe not everyone’s cup of tea but an amazing innovator on the piano.

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