Jimmy Giuffre Night Dance Review

Album. Released 26 June 2003.  

BBC Review

Rare Guiffre outing from 1971 makes its debut on CD...

Patrick Johns 2003

A re-issue from Candid's Choice imprint, this 1971 session of Giuffre originals sees the leader on clarinet, flute and tenor sax teaming up with bassist Kiyoshi Tokunaga and percussionist Randy Kaye for some very intimate small group playing.

The title track kicks the album off nicely, an easy minor blues with some busy bass work from Tokunaga, a restless tenor sax from Giuffre, and Kaye's drumming bringing a new definition to the word sparse. And from here on through the remaining eleven tracks, very little changes: it is a series of spacious atmospheric minor grooves for bass and drums, with Giuffre playing whimsically over the top.

With titles such as "Moonlight", "Dervish" and "The Chanting", these pieces were clearly meant to be heard together, yet the resulting suite lacks the subtle variety and direction that similar and greater works possess. There is fine playing all round with Giuffre's clarinet evoking images of Eastern Europe on "Feast Dance", his avian flute rising above bowed double bass on "The Bird" and the wonderful "Mosquito Dance" bringing a delicious (if somewhat overdue) lift in tempo, feel and character, but ultimately the album leaves you feeling rather empty. It meanders where it should inspire and it drifts where it should progress.

It is refreshing to hear a trio of musicians clearly working off each other for the common good rather than just going through the motions, but at 45 minutes there'sjust too much of the same.The ear yearns for a variance in speed, for a harmonic surprise, for a change of feel. Giuffre and his colleagues succeed in painting a nocturnal picture of unseen activity and the trio's musicianship is unquestionable, but there is something missing.

Fans of Giuffre will welcome this addition to his catalogue, and this album certainly has some nice moments, especially in the delicacy of "The Butterfly"; but it's hard work going from start to finish without feeling you should be listening to something else instead.

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