Reeds player Jimmy Giuffre is well known for his unique (drumless) cool jazz trio of the late 50s (with guitarist Jim Hall and bassist Ralph Pena)and also for his even more unusual relaxed and meditative avant-garde jazz trio of the early 60s (with pianist Paul Bley and bassist Steve Swallow). After a decade of silence, Jimmy returned in the mid 70s with a few albums, and then disappeared again.
His second return in the early 80s is less known (he recorded three albums for Italian Soul Note label) and would surprise almost every fan of his earlier recordings. On all three albums ("Dragonfly", "Quasar" and "Liquid Dancers") Giuffre's new quartet plays ... fusion! Featuring keyboardist Pete Levin (Rhoads, Moog, Oberheim, etc), bassist Bob Nieske and drummer Randy Kaye, besides Giuffre himself (on clarinet, tenor and soprano saxes, flute and bass flute), this quartet plays quite electric music and even energetic in moments. At the same time, as it was with Giuffre's cool jazz and avant-garde music, his fusion is different from what was typical: his hard-bop/cool jazz roots and aesthetics are still in effect, and his compositions vary from airy minimalist electric cool ballads, to almost new age meditative electronic aerial songs. All three albums weren't popular at the time of their release and are now almost forgotten rarities. So the CAM label did a great job here reissuing them all as one set. Even if Giuffre's fusion is far from sensational, I believe believe these three albums are pleasant and an interesting surprise for his fans.
There is a fourth album in this set - and even if it contains more predictable music, it is obviously the best part of the compilation. Reunited in the early 90s, Guiffre's avant-garde trio recorded "Conversations With A Goose" after a few years of regular concerts, so their communication here is telepathic. Different from the early 60s, Swallow plays electric bass here and Bley's piano is softer and more liquid than usual. But, even with some citations from their past, this music is free-cool jazz, Guiffre's style (no distortion, no overload), more mature than 35 years ago, but still fresh and not nostalgic at all! The only reason this fourth album is a part of the same set is that it was released on Italian Soul Note as well, but nearly a decade later.
All in all, this set is not Giuffre's best music, and not the most interesting of his releases, but if you already know and like his cool jazz and avant-garde works from the late 50s-early 60s, and are not familiar with his later (lesser known) music, probably you will be pleasantly surprised with what you'll find here.