Jimmy Giuffre

Thesis

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The tone of Thesis, recorded a month after the gorgeous explorations that were the Fusion album, revealed the influence of the jazz vanguard on Giuffre's direction. If Fusion's structures and harmonic architectures were loose, those on Thesis were almost completely undone. From the album's opening moments, the intense, breathtakingly knotty melody of "Ictus" comes charging out of the gate with scarcely enough time for the listener to discern whether what's being played is a composition or an improvisation. But neither the jazz avant-guard, with its charging rhythms and atonal signatures, nor the hard bopping Blue Note swingers held any sway over Giuffre's approach to texture and his insistence on subtlety and space. On "That's True, That's True," Bley takes the tune down the blues road only to have Swallow open it into a modal meditation on B flat. Giuffre's solo is a contrapuntal arpeggio study that alternating mode and interval along with Swallow, coloring in open the chords of Bley with stutters and long runs up and down the horn both in and out of scalar logic. They immediately move toward "Sonic" which many have made arguments is third stream, but this is jazz, pure and complex. Bley's established 6/8 swings over to Swallow and allows Giuffre his 18/8 solo in arpeggiated flurries and a timbral twist that carries the tone of the upper register near the middle register of a soprano saxophone. Bley's 12-tone influences are present too, with striking work in the middle register with the right hand; trills and eighth note runs alternate but never before the rest of the notes in the scale are played. Swallow moves toward a minimal approach, abandoning meter to Bley's sense of time, and concentrates on punctuating statements by both soloists with pizzicato runs up the neck or an ostinato opening the chords up for a denser wash of notes from Bley, who is on fire. The fiery counterpoint among the three is nearly unbelievable on this record. It's font of ideas and range of textures, colors, and emotions never lets up. The listener is exhausted by its end and in the present day, when it is still ahead of its time, wonder what jazz audiences in the United States must have made of it back then. No matter, the restless bravery employed by Giuffre, Bley, and Swallow here are as revelatory in their study of dynamic and counterpoint now as they were then -- and these guys still played the blues!

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