Monday, 11 October 2010

Unearthly Delights #3 - Introspective Improv Chamber Jazz

Columbia Records 1963

We love records that scare us. And records that we can't stop listening to but don't actually know why. And this quite unassuming looking avantgardist jazz album from clarinetist composer Jimmy Giuffre and his trio is one of those records.

The one thing that distinctly sets this apart for us from the vibrant improvised / free jazz scene that was gaining momentum around this time is that whilst the majority of Giuffre's contemporaries were forging a bold, energetic path forwards, FREE FALL was dark. Pitch black infact. Claustrophobic in places, arranged very much in introspective chamber music form. Minimal, stark, intense; it really does come to life when clarinet, piano and double bass find their way back together and feed a heavy melody before dropping back into atonal soloing.

The album heavily references ancient norse mythology, with Giuffre linking the base qualities of music to the source of all knowledge and the great tree Yggdrasill. Either way, this is one insane, restrained noise and Jimmy Giuffre, Paul Bley and Steve Swallow were one extraordinary trio blazing a rather unique and personal vision. And even more wild that this rather difficult album found it's way onto Columbia Records.

And as a side note -- if any of this sounds of interest, I'd also recommend checking out Ken Vandermark's FREE FALL trio and their 2005 album, 'Amsterdam Funk' on the always special Smalltown Superjazzz label out of Norway. Influenced not only in name by Giuffre's classic, Vandermark utilises the clarinet, piano and bass trio to powerful effect, although maybe not as dark and brooding.

This is one heavy scene.

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