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He started playing clarinet when he was 9 years old. He studied at North Texas State University and played for local groups. After serving (in which he played in the army band), he played tenor saxophone and started working as an arranger for various bands, including those of Jimmy Dorsey and drummer Buddy Rich. He first became known as an arranger for Woody Herman's big band, the Thundering Herd. Would he also the famous ' Four Brothers ' (1947).
In the early 1950s, he moved to Los Angeles and played with various groups, including some bands of Shorty Rogers. During this time he studied with poet and composer Dr. Wesley La Violette, who introduced him with contrapuntal music. It would have a major impact on Giuffre. From 1954 to 1958 he made several plates for the Capitoland Atlanticlabels. His most important album in that time was ' Clarinet ' (1956). He worked with a trio, and drums, with Jim Hall (guitar) and Ralph Pena (bass) (later replaced by Jim Atlas). With this trio, Jimmy Giuffre 3, he made blues-based folk jazz, such as ". The trio scored a minor hit In 1957, ' The Train and the River '. When Pena left the trio, Giuffre replaced by a trombone player, Bob Brookmeyer. This very unusual line-up was in part inspired by the classical composer Claude Debussy. The trio in this occupation can be seen in the documentary "Jazz on a summer's Day ', a recording of the 1958 Newport Jazz Festival .
After the departure of Brookmeyer, came in 1961 with a new trio, Giuffre with pianist Paul Bley and bassist Steve Swallow. The trio made music which at that time was not well understood and appreciated: free jazz, but then quiet free jazz. It examined new roads in improvised jazz, free improvisation-a few years before the tree in Europe. This group toured Giuffre a month by Germany and made the recordings for a plate for CBS. The album had to ' Yggdrasil ' (' Tree of Universe '), but was later released under the title ' Free Fall '. The Group also made recordings for Verve. Shortly after the release of ' Free Fall ' the trio decided to stop.Although in those years consider undervalued, many fans and musicians this group as one of the most important groups in the history of jazz.
In 1964 and 1965 Giuffre played with Don Friedman and Barre Philips. Of this trio are no recordings. In 1970 made Giuffre music for a choreography by Jean Erdman (' The Castle '). In the early 1970s came with a new trio, featuring bassist Giuffre Kiyoshi Tokunaga and drummer Randy Kaye. There were some recordings made for the label Choice. Influenced by the electric jazz of the early 1980s, Giuffre formed Weather Report Jimmy Giuffre 4, with Kaye, Pete Levin (synthesizer) and (electric) bassist Bob Nieske. The Group made three albums for Soul Note. With Andre Jaume was a live album recorded in 1988. In 1993, the now famous trio with Swallow and Bley founded again, resulting in the album "Conversations with a Goose '. There was a tour in Europe. In those years suffering Parkinson's disease already Giuffre.
In the 1970s, Giuffre Rutgers Professor at New York University. Later he would also teach at New England Conservatory of Music in Boston.
More than thirty years he lived with his wife Juanita in a water mill in Pittsfield, New England.