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The Jimmy Giuffre 4

A smooth, West Coast American clarinet player who mixed his jazz grooves with blues and folk melodies, Jimmy Giuffre helped pioneer the counterpoint technique of improvisation, epitomised by his most revolutionary album 'Free Fall' in 1962.

Born in Dallas, Texas, he picked up the clarinet at the age of nine and studied music at the North Texas State University and played with army bands before making his mark as an arranger for the Woody Herman Orchestra. For them he composed the swing standard 'Four Brothers' in 1947, which became a famous tune for saxophone, and captured the great skills of Stan Getz, Zoot Sims, Herbie Steward and Serge Chaloff.

Giuffre subsequently moved to Los Angeles in the early 1950s, where he expanded his musical horizons under the guidance of composer Wesley LaViolette. He made his first recordings for Capitol Records and broke new ground with his 1958 album 'The Four Brothers Sound' for Atlantic Records, which overdubbed his tenor saxophone and defied regular bebop conventions. Performing as a trio with guitarist Jim Hall and piano and trombone player Bob Brookmeyer, their highly acclaimed albums 'Trav'lin Light' and 'Western Suite' cemented Giuffre's growing reputation, but the stark, experimental feel of 1962's 'Free Fall' was way ahead of its time and confounded jazz fans who infamously booed him in Paris. It flopped commercially but had resounding influence.

He ventured on into a post-bop world of African, oriental and Middle-Eastern music and became increasingly avant garde on his records for Soul Note in the 1970s, while he also gave private lessons and performed at the New York University. He later played with free jazz saxophonist Joe McPhee and recorded his final album 'Three Windows and Two Souls' in 1998. Suffering from Parkinson's disease he died aged 86 in 2008.


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