Jimmy Giuffre: The Easy Way
The Easy Way
Jimmy Giuffre (clarinet)
The Easy Way (Verve 440 065 508-2)
Composed by Jimmy Giuffre.
Recorded: Chicago, IL, August 7, 1959
Rating: 92/100 (learn more)
The Easy Way was a transitional album for Jimmy Giuffre. By 1959, the ever-restless reedman had mostly drained his popular mid-'50s Swamp Jazz, but was not yet up to his ass in the avant-garde alligators that would soon ravage his popularity. A year earlier, the Jimmy Giuffre 3 had comprised Giuffre, his longtime collaborator Jim Hall, and valve trombonist Bob Brookmeyer, forming one of the oddest instrumentations in jazz history. For this date, however, Giuffre reverts to his original 1956 trio format by enlisting Oscar Peterson's perennial bassist Ray Brown. Contrary to the liner notes, incidentally, nowhere on this album does Giuffre play the baritone sax. If he lugged his bari to the studio, it went unused. Instead he plays tenor sax on 3 of the 8 selections, clarinet on all others.
The easiest way to access The Easy Way is through its title tune, a bluesy, loping, quietly swinging Giuffre original that ropes you in as gently as an old cowhand lassoing a baby steer. The leader's breathy clarinet (think asthmatic Lester Young), Brown's bulwark bass and the willowy wallflower of Jim Hall's guitar (dig especially his bent notes around the 4:15 mark) perfectly complement one another. And, praise be, the proceedings were beautifully remastered by Kevin Reeves via 24-bit digital transfer in 2003. This is outstanding chamber jazz from a modernist master and two eminently sympathetic souls.
Reviewer: Alan Kurtz