His career winds from the 1940s to ‘01 and his music never stood still, Jimmy Giuffre remains one of the most interesting and underrated jazz musician/composers around. The cool, bop, avant garde - he’s been and done, and in many cases before a lot of other better-known cats. But don’t take my word for it - dig this reissue of one of the man’s Atlantic albums from the mid-50s, The Jimmy Giuffre Clarinet. He’s got many winds in his arsenal, but here he concentrates solely on the titular instrument in solo, duo, trio and mini-big band contexts. This is quiet, subtle chamber-group jazz that does not sacrifice intensity or creativity for low volume and restraint. In some ways this platter presages the free/avant scene to come in the 60s and 70s (especially the A.A.C.M.) in the way the focus is on group interplay (as opposed to glibly playing bebop or swing licks), how Giuffre uses silence and unusual (for the time) instrumentation (one tune is just regular, alto & bass clarinets, no piano, bass or drums). That’s not to imply that this is an "out" session - it’s very "inside" and lyrical, though said lyricism avoids drippy sentimentality and is cerebral without being ponderous. The overall "mood" is subdued without foregoing vitality or swing. The closer, though, is a nice surprise - the J.G.-penned "Down Home" is scored for a mini-big band and features the classic/classy trumpet of Harry "Sweets" Edison in a soulful tip-o’-the-hat to the creamy, blues-rich big band sophistication of Ellington and Basie. J.G.’s clarinet is warmly resonant - concentrating on the lower registers it sometimes sounds a bit like a baritone sax or an oboe - which, despite the "soft" (his word, not mine) nature of these performances, is a commanding presence.