Jimmy Giuffre has had many accomplishments in a long career that has never been predictable.
Giuffre graduated from North Texas State Teachers College (1942), played in an Army band during
his period in the service and then had stints with the orchestras of Boyd Raeburn, Jimmy Dorsey and
Buddy Rich. His composition "Four Brothers" became a hit for Woody Herman, an orchestra that
Giuffre eventually joined in 1949.
Settling on the West Coast, the cool-toned tenor started also playing clarinet and occasional
baritone. He was with Howard Rumsey's Lighthouse All-Stars (1951-52) and Shorty Rogers' Giants
(1952-56), recording with many top West Coast jazz players. In 1956 he went out on his own,
forming the Jimmy Giuffre 3 with guitarist Jim Hall and bassist Ralph Pena (later Jim Atlas). Giuffre
had a minor hit with his recording of "The Train and the River," a song that he played during his
notable appearance on the 1957 television special The Sound of Jazz. In 1958 Giuffre had a most
unusual trio with valve trombonist Bob Brookmeyer and guitarist Hall (no piano, bass or drums!),
appearing in the movie Jazz on a Summer's Day. After a couple years of reverting back to the
reeds-guitar-bass format, in 1961 the new Jimmy Giuffre 3 featured pianist Paul Bley and bassist
Steve Swallow and was involved in exploring the more introspective side of free jazz.
From 1963 on
Giuffre maintained a lower profile, working as an educator although Don Friedman and Barre Phillips
were in his unrecorded 1964-65 group. He popped up on records now and then in the 1970s with
diverse trios (including a session with Bley and Bill Connors) and his 1980s unit often utilized the
synthesizer of Pete Levin. Giuffre, who started late in life playing flute and soprano and seems to
have made a career out of playing surprising music, reunited with Bley and Swallow in 1992. He has
recorded as a leader through the years for Capitol, Atlantic, Columbia, Verve, Hat Art, Choice,
Improvising Artists, Soul Note and Owl. -- Scott Yanow, All-Music Guide