In the past Jimmy Giuffre has always struck me as being a little bit too smooth, his west coast cool sound has never struck a chord but Western Suite has changed all that, now I have to hear more. A saxophonist, clarinettist and composer Giuffre composed this suite for the trio he had been playing with in the year precdeding this 1958 recording, a band that differentiates itself by the complete absence of a rhythm section. Alongside Giuffre was trombone player Bob Brookmeyer and guitarist Jim Hall, they were all extremely adept players and these pieces find them weaving the most intricate yet effortless and fluent patterns around one another.
By leaving out the drums and bass Giuffre creates a totally fresh vibe with compositions that are subtle, light and nimble. This is achieved with various techniques including the two horns playing together and the guitar in counterpoint or with all three creating a multi tonal collage that has an effortless groove. The recording is an early stereo production with lots of space in it, the presence of notes about the “high fidelity” recording indicating that there’s nothing new in high resolution except a name. In the liner notes Giuffre makes the point that not having a drummer or bassist to “make time” gave this band the freedom to flow, as he put it: “I believe in letting the music play itself instead of forcing it.” That is clearly what he achieved on a remarkable album that sounds as good as you could imagine thanks to Pure Pleasure’s painstaking remastering and high quality pressing.