Jimmy Giuffre’s trio, featuring Paul Bley and Steve Swallow, was a short-lived, but highly influential unit.
1961 comprises the records Fusion and Thesis (plus previously unissued tracks from those sessions), the entire programme remixed by Manfred Eicher and Jan Erik Kongshaug.
The group was, as Giuffre noted, “searching for a free sense of tonality and form. Often dissonance is thrown against consonance and throughout there is a curious vacillation between ‘the simple’ and ‘the complex’”.
The playing on 1961 has an intellectual alertness that one finds in little of the self-expression music of the era, and has stood the test of time remarkably well. It sounds, in fact, startlingly contemporary. Given the growth of what has come to be called “chamber jazz”, Giuffre´s pioneering music has a context at last. We find here, too, some of the earliest glimpses of Carla Bley’s songs (Giuffre: “Besides being lovely in themselves, they open new vistas for us to extemporize upon.”) Paul Bley continued to play them throughout his life, frequently calling upon “Ictus” or “Carla” in the course of an evening’s improvising.
Over the decades ECM has documented much of the music of Paul and Carla Bley and Steve Swallow. This 1992 reissue paid tribute to the man who gave impetus to all their careers.
1961’s booklet includes texts by Steve Lake and Philippe Carles, and classic session photography by Herb Snitzer.