The free-thinking American composer, clarinetist and tenor saxophonist Jimmy Giuffre was already a bit of a ghost when he died in 2008, at 86. His career had stalled out decades earlier, reaching its commercial peak in the late 1950s, when he was leading a sparse but stylish trio with the valve trombonist Bob Brookmeyer and the guitarist Jim Hall.
The spontaneous flair and chamber-like cool of Mr. Giuffre’s music have brought him back into favor in recent years. One of the contemporary artists tapping into his legacy is Samuel Blaser, an intrepid, Swiss-born trombonist living in Berlin, whose new album, “Spring Rain,” is a thoughtful and energetic tribute.
Because Mr. Blaser plays trombone, it’s only natural to assume his interest in Mr. Giuffre starts with Mr. Brookmeyer. But “Spring Rain” bears more affinity with a later edition of the Jimmy Giuffre 3, the spikier trio Mr. Giuffre led in the early ‘60s, with Paul Bley on piano and Steve Swallow on bass. This album includes compositions from that group’s repertory, like the lonesome fanfare “Cry, Want,” and two durable tunes by Carla Bley.
Mr. Blaser explores this music, and the terse angularities of his own originals, with a smartly elastic rhythm section: Russ Lossing on piano and keyboards, Drew Gress on bass and Gerald Cleaver on drums. (He’ll have a different lineup on Friday and Saturday at Ibeam in Brooklyn: Mr. Lossing, the bassist Masa Kamaguchi and the drummer Billy Mintz.) The band’s interactions give the impression of an alert and contingent poise.
Mr. Blaser has a precise, expressive style on trombone and he’s an ace with multiphonic techniques, which enable him to growl chords on the instrument; one track, “Trippin’,” finds him in solo reverie, calmly deploying garbled effects. (That title suggests a nod to the Giuffre tune “Trudgin’,” also found here.)
Mr. Blaser’s focused interiority and dauntless self-possession point toward Mr. Giuffre even when the connection is otherwise unclear. The same can be said for his sidemen. One original, “The First Snow,” has a solo by Mr. Lossing that evokes the limber scrawl of a graffiti artist, played on both acoustic piano and Minimoog synthesizer. It’s a moment that ducks any direct emulation, but its bristling composure recalls Mr. Giuffre’s ideals, especially a focus on originality.
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