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Jimmy Giuffre

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James Peter Giuffre (April 26, 1921 – April 24, 2008) was an American jazz composer, arranger and saxophone and clarinet player. He is notable for his development of forms of jazz which allowed for free interplay between the musicians, anticipating forms of free improvisation.

Born in Dallas, Texas, Giuffre (pronounced “Joo-fray”) was a graduate of Dallas Technical High School and North Texas State Teachers College (now the University of North Texas). He first became known as an arranger for Woody Herman’s big band, for which he wrote the celebrated “Four Brothers” (1947). He would continue to write creative, unusual arrangements throughout his career. He was a central figure in West coast jazz, cool jazz, and was a member of Shorty Rogers’s groups before going solo. Giuffre played clarinet, as well as tenor and baritone saxophones, but eventually focused on clarinet.

His first trio consisted of Giuffre, guitarist Jim Hall and double bassist Ralph Pena (later replaced by Jim Atlas). They had a minor hit in 1957 when Giuffre’s “The Train and the River” was featured on the television special The Sound of Jazz. This trio explored what Giuffre dubbed “blues-based folk jazz”. This same special matched Giuffre with fellow clarinetist Pee Wee Russell for a leisurely jam session simply titled “Blues”.

When Atlas left the trio, Giuffre replaced him with valve trombonist Bob Brookmeyer. This unusual instrumentation was partly inspired by Aaron Copland. The group can be seen performing in the film Jazz on a Summer’s Day filmed at the 1958 Newport Jazz Festival.

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