Jimmy Giuffre has had many accomplishments in a long career that has never been predictable. Giuffre graduated from North Texas State Teachers College in 1942, played in an Army band during his period in the service, and then had stints with the orchestras of Boyd Raeburn, Jimmy Dorsey, and Buddy Rich. His composition, "Four Brothers," became a hit for Woody Herman, an orchestra that Giuffre eventually joined in 1949.
Settling on the West Coast, the cool-toned tenor also started playing clarinet and occasional baritone. He was with Howard Rumsey's Lighthouse All-Stars (1951-1952) and Shorty Rogers' Giants (1952-1956), recording with many top West Coast jazz players. In 1956 he went out on his own, forming the Jimmy Giuffre 3 with guitarist Jim Hall and bassist Ralph Pena (later Jim Atlas). Giuffre had a minor hit with his recording of "The Train and the River," a song that he played during his notable appearance on the 1957 television special The Sound of Jazz. In 1958, Giuffre had a most unusual trio with valve trombonist Bob Brookmeyer and guitarist Hall (no piano, bass, or drums!), appearing in the movie Jazz on a Summer's Day. After a couple years of reverting back to the reeds-guitar-bass format, 1961 saw the new Jimmy Giuffre 3, featuring pianist Paul Bley and bassist Steve Swallow, which was involved in exploring the more introspective side of free jazz. From 1963 on, Giuffre maintained a lower profile working as an educator, although Don Friedman and Barre Phillips were in his unrecorded 1964-1965 group. He popped up on records now and then in the '70s with diverse trios (including a session with Bley and Bill Connors) and his '80s unit often utilized the synthesizer of Pete Levin. Giuffre, who started playing flute and soprano late in life, and seems to have made a career out of playing surprising music, reunited with Bley and Swallow in 1992. He has recorded as a leader through the years for Capitol, Atlantic, Columbia, Verve, Hat Art, Choice, Improvising Artists, Soul Note, and Owl. ~ Scott Yanow, Rovi