Jimmy Giuffre (1921-2008) was an American jazz clarinetist, saxophonist, composer, and arranger. He is known for his pioneering work in the development of cool jazz and free improvisation.
Giuffre was born in Dallas, Texas, and began playing the clarinet at the age of 9. He later switched to the saxophone and attended North Texas State Teachers College (now the University of North Texas), where he studied music education and composition. After serving in the Army during World War II, Giuffre moved to Los Angeles and began working as a professional musician.
In the late 1940s, Giuffre was a member of Woody Herman’s big band, where he wrote and arranged for the band’s famous “Four Brothers” saxophone section. Other famous saxophonists he worked with during this time include Stan Getz, Zoot Sims, and Serge Chaloff.
In the early 1950s, Giuffre began to explore new directions in jazz, forming a trio with bassist Ralph Pena and drummer Shelly Manne. The trio’s music was characterized by its lyrical melodies, open improvisations, and use of space.
In the mid-1950s, Giuffre disbanded his trio and began working with a variety of other musicians, including Art Farmer, Bob Brookmeyer, and Paul Bley. He also began to experiment with free improvisation, releasing the album “Free Fall” in 1956. “Free Fall” was one of the first albums to document free improvisation in jazz.
Giuffre was a highly influential figure in jazz. His music was innovative and challenging, and he helped to shape the sound of cool jazz and free improvisation. He was also a gifted composer and arranger, and his work is still studied and performed by musicians today.
Page last updated 10/2/2023.