The Jimmy Giuffre 4: Dragonfly
The Jimmy Giuffre 4
Dragonfly (Soul Note SN 1058)
Jimmy Giuffre (tenor sax),
Bob Nieske (electric bass), Pete Levin (keyboards), and Randy Kaye (percussion).
Composed by Jimmy Giuffre.
Recorded: Southbury, CT, January 14 or 15, 1983
Rating: 92/100 (learn more)
Jimmy Giuffre isn't the first name that comes to mind when one thinks about '80s fusion. Yet he was such an adventurous creative soul, it shouldn't surprise anyone that he would eventually try plugging-in. Indeed, the most surprising thing about this music is not the identity of its creator, but rather its label. Surely this must be the most "commercial" album ever issued on the avant-centric Soul Note.
"Dragonfly" is an aggressive, Return to Forever/Weather Report-like tune that features sudden melodic and harmonic twists of a kind that would've make Josef Zawinul proud. The band isn't quite as tight as the major label fusion groups of that era, but they execute Giuffre's tortuous composition with just enough precision and plenty of fire. The rhythm section is plenty exciting. Drummer Randy Kaye and electric bassist Bob Nieske form a dynamic foundation, and Pete Levin on electric piano is an intrepid soloist and accompanist. Giuffre's rather dark sound and swing-meets-free manner of improvising doesn't incorporate the sort of post-Coltrane/Shorter elements one is accustomed to hearing from tenor saxophonists playing in this bag, but that's not a problem. It runs counter to formula, and that's seldom if ever a bad thing.
As high as the quality of musicianship is, the instrumentation and style robs it of the timeless quality we get from Giuffre's acoustic work. Still, it's an intriguing performance—a lesser-known aspect of this great multifaceted artist's recorded legacy.
Reviewer: Chris Kelsey