“1961” compiles two albums the 3 recorded for Verve in the titular year, “Fusion” and “Thesis”. Whatever they sounded like back then, they certainly seem to fit ECM’s “power from a quiet place” aesthetic now: playing cool, relaxed, slightly detached and increasingly free jazz, the drummerless (bass, clarinet, piano) trio’s music prizes interplay over rhythm. Eloquent, elastic and understated, each performance seems like an elaborate sonic puzzle. As Giuffre himself says in the sleeve notes, “It has been said when jazz gets soft it loses its gusto and funkiness. It is my feeling that soft jazz can retain the basic flavour and intensity that it has at a louder volume and at the same time perhaps reveal some new dimensions of feeling that loudness obscures.”


It has to be said that much of the first album, “Fusion”, makes the Bill Evans Trio’s “Waltz For Debby” look positively frenetic. “Thesis”, recorded a mere five months later, is immediately more energetic. “Ictus”, one of four Carla Bley compositions represented, sounds like the ensemble are falling down a flight of stairs: it deploys the same refined timbral palette as on the previous album, but here it’s pressed into service of craziness. “That’s True, That’s True” quotes Miles Davis’ “So What”, though whether in appreciation or mockery it’s hard to tell, and it’s hard to imagine Frank Sinatra crooning over Giuffre’s arrangement of Gordon Jenkins’ “Goodbye” in the same way he does over Nelson Riddle’s charts on “Frank Sinatra Sings For Only The Lonely”.


It’s a testament to the quality of the original recordings (and ECM’s subsequent spit and polishing of them) that you can hear Giuffre taking breaths between clarinet phrases in places. The whole package is wrapped in crisp, evocative black and white session photographs, relegating discussion of the music to an inner that I eventually located six months after buying the album. (D’oh!)