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As iconic as any jazz musician, Chet Baker's gentle, understated playing and crooning ran counterpoint to his tumultuous life. Two late life recordings capture an introspective legend, voice ravaged by time, playing thoughtful and resonant solos. The third disc is a loving tribute showcasing the melancholic joie de vivre that launched his career in the '50s.
Strollin' was recorded at the Jazz Festival Munster in Germany just three years before Baker's death in 1988. It features Philip Catherine prominently on guitar and without a drummer, Jean-Louis Rassinfosse (bass) makes up the rhythm section. Catherine's fast and crisp playing is in stark contrast to Baker's lingering fuzzy lilts. The highlight on this remastered disc is Hank Mobley's "Funk in a Deep Freeze," a previously unreleased track with a deep bebop groove. It should also be noted that the album is instrumental save for the last track, "But Not For Me," done in an uncharacteristically upbeat style with scatting.
Broken Wing, an earlier release from 1979, features a more traditional piano, bass and drums backing for Baker, whose voice is airy and hauntingly mellow on "Oh, You Crazy Moon" and absent from the other four tracks; his trumpet fills the space especially well on the title track. Jean-Francois Jenny-Clark's basslines complement Baker and pianist Phil Markowitz subtly provides the perfect harmonic backdrop while Jeff Brillinger delivers a great drum solo on the Irving Berlin standard "How Deep Is The Ocean."
As an instrumentalist who sings, John Proulx has long felt a connection to Baker's music and it resonates on his tribute album, Baker's Dozen: Remembering Chet Baker. Highlights include "My Funny Valentine," imbued with a quiet, understated cool and a little bit of sadness and the opening track, "Let's Get Lost," a beautifully rich song that Proulx nails. His lyrical piano solos linger just long enough to complement his voice exquisitely and Dominick Farinacci plays the trumpet and flugelhorn with Baker's signature light toucha real joy to hear.
Tracks and Personnel
Tracks: Sad Walk; Strollin'; Love for Sale; Funk in Deep Freeze; Leaving; But Not for Me.
Personnel: Chet Baker: trumpet, vocals; Philip Catherine: guitar; Jean-Louis Rassinfosse: bass.
Tracks: Broken Wing; Oh, You Crazy Moon; Black Eyes; Blue Gilles; How Deep is the Ocean.
Personnel: Chet Baker: trumpet, vocals; Phil Markowitz: piano; Jean Francois Jenny Clark: bass; Jeff Brillinger: drums.
Tracks: Let's Get Lost; Long Ago and Far Away; Time After Time; But Not for Me; I Get Along Without You Very Well; Reunion/There Will Never Be Another You; I Remember You; You Don't Know What Love Is; Before You Know It; I Fall in Love Too Easily; Line for Lyons; My Funny Valentine; Look for the Silver Lining.
Personnel: John Proulx: piano, vocals; Chuck Berghofer: bass; Joe Labarbera: drums; Dominick Farinacci: trumpet, flugelhorn.