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Chet Baker: But Not For Me

Mark Corroto By

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It was easy to fall in and out of love with Chet Baker. The trumpeter and vocalist was indeed a devil with an angel’s face. His doleful approach to music drew listeners into his darkness for a brief stay at his melancholy hotel. Baker’s drug abuse eventually—it took a while—destroyed his talents. In between his dark bouts, glimpses of his genius were captured on record. In the later years of his life (he died in 1988 at age 59) his recordings were quite hit-and-miss. This 1982 session with an all-star rhythm section finds everyone, including Baker, in good form.

Mister Impeccable, Kenny Barron, anchors the date with steady accompaniment. Seemingly the perfect foil, the pianist’s touch is chock-full of background fills but also swinging blues solos.

Baker’s playing is marked with his signature vulnerable, frail sound. Where others might find this to be weakness, Baker leans on his assailabilty for expression. The poster child for the ineffable society is on his game here. Although not listed in the notes, Baker’s flugelhorn appears on the final track, “Prayer For the New Born.” Like the doleful “Lament,” taken from “Sometimes I Feel Like A Motherless Child,” “Prayer” touches on life’s tragedies in a way no current jazz trumpeter seems capable of doing.

James Newton and Howard Johnson play the flute and tuba respectively, accenting and supporting with great effect. On the vocal track “Four,” with its 1950s references to a ‘four-in-one girl,’ Johnson lays a wall-to-wall carpet of silky sound while Charlie Haden keeps the pulse. They lighten things up with a hipster's quick take on Gershwin’s “But Not For Me.”

While not an essential Baker recording, But Not For Me is a valuable resurrection from the out-of-print graveyard.


Track Listing: Lament; Four; Line For Lyons; Ellen David; But Not For Me; Prayer To The Newborn.

Personnel: Chet Baker - Trumpet, Vocals; Kenny Barron - Piano; Charlie Haden - Bass; Ben Riley - Drums; James Newton - Flute; Howard Johnson - Tuba.

Title: But Not For Me | Year Released: 2003 | Record Label: Random Chance Records

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