The second night of the 1989 reunion in New York of the 1961-1962 Jimmy Giuffre 3 with pianist Paul Bley and (now electric) bassist Steve Swallow in some ways eclipses the first. The fact that there is more integration between the trio members as a whole than on the first evening is certainly one place to start. At the very beginning, "Sensing" -- with Giuffre on soprano and Bley playing bass notes in the lowest register as Swallow enters and takes over the role and Bley moves to the middle -- is a stunner, though it is only four minutes and 13 seconds long. The breadth of the players seems to have come back to them as a unit with these live, as-they-happened, no-second-take performances. There are six full performances here -- and oddly enough the most satisfying of them is a composed piece by Carla Bley entitled "Where Were We?" -- instead of three from the previous evening. Giuffre is more comfortable on the soprano here, and the duos are quite literally amazing. Bley has a pair of piano solos, Giuffre has one clarinet solo, and the rest are duos made up of either bass and piano, clarinet and bass, soprano and piano, soprano and bass, etc. The joy of music-making and the inherent lyricism in these pieces reflect not only a sense of familiarity with the dialogue and improvisational feel of each player, but the true desire to communicate from inside the sound being explored to the listener as well. There may have been a few more viscerally exciting performances by vanguard jazz trios during 1989, but few of them that revealed -- via the strength of restraint -- what tonality, dissonance, and harmony can achieve when what is explored is music for its own sake. Highly recommended.
For fans of Eleventh Dream Day, the existence of New Moodio can't help but beg the question "What if?" Any number of "alternative" bands were chewed up and spit out by the major labels in the feeding frenzy following Nevermind, but few had a sadder story than Eleventh Dream Day (see bio for details). El Moodio, with no one at the label interested in promoting it at all, sank like a stone and filled cutout bins, thus effectively derailing a band on the rise. But what if EDD had put out the album they originally intended? What if Atlantic and their bungling had been out of the picture? Well, who knows, really. Music is surely a fickle enterprise. One thing is for sure, though: the band-financed, Brad Wood-engineered version of El Moodio (now New Moodio) easily bests the major-label version (which was a darn good album).
Recorded and mixed in just a few days, there's an immediacy to these recordings that's slightly lacking on the Atlantic version. Also, there are a number of great tunes on New Moodio which have never appeared anywhere, re-recorded or not. Of course, the track shuffling gives the album a different flow as well. A handful of these tracks were released on promo or import singles, but were never widely available. Given that the band was still recording as of 2011, it's hard to argue that this alternative scenario would have made a great impact on the band's success, but it is interesting to think about. New Moodio catches a hungry band at a pivotal time early in their career.
It's a fresh perspective to what might have been and a damn good listen, as well.