Hooray! Chet Baker, who died 20 years ago this month, lives again like a breath of fresh springtime air on these newly released CDs.
Indian Summer was recorded in September 1955 on two consecutive nights at two different venues in The Netherlands. The personnel consisted of Baker (trumpet and vocals), pianist Dick Twardzik (who died of a drug overdose during the tour), Jimmy Bond (bass) and Peter Littman (drums). The first six tracks of this CD remained unreleased until now and were recorded with one mic and not enough tape, but the magic is there. The last six tracks were air checks and have been circulating around Europe over the years. The material is standards but also includes Johnny Mandel's "Tommyhawk," a real rouser that appears in two takes. There are also two versions of the title song, which gives the advantage of comparison. And, since this is jazz, nothing is ever played the same way twice. Notable here is Littman's engine-like drumming on "Tommyhawk," Bond's arco on "Imagination" and Twardzik's fills and inventions on all of the tracks. And then there is Baker with his pure trumpet tone and ability to 'play' the lyric. There are three Baker vocals: a very short version of "My Funny Valentine" where the tape ran out, "Imagination" and a sensitive reading of "Someone To Watch Over Me." Eerily touching is hearing Baker's speaking voice as he introduces each song.
The Quintessence truly presents the essential Chet Baker; a two-disc selection of tracks from Baker's 1953-1956 recordings featuring an assortment of different players and group configurations. There is the quartet, quintet, sextet, ensemble (with strings), the orchestra and the big band (where it seems as if he raided the reed and horn section of the Stan Kenton band). There is also the "Moonlight In Vermont" track recorded with the Gerry Mulligan Quartet and "Sonny Boy" with the Art Pepper Sextet. There is not enough space here to mention all of the personnel but notable is Zoot Sims' appearance on "A Little Duet" and the group on the last two tracks of the second disc: Russ Freeman (piano), Leroy Vinegar (bass) and Shelly Manne (drums), a tight cohesive unit. Freeman appears on many of the tracks and, since he worked a lot with Baker, has a special musical connection, including the same kind of sense of humor. These discs offer many Baker vocals including "My Funny Valentine," the song with which he is most associated.
Baker's talent lies in the simplicity and ease of his playing and singing. For those who were in the neighborhood over half a century ago when this music was being made, these CDs are a must for a wonderful wallow in nostalgia. For those who weren't, this is time travel at its best.
Tracks and Personnel
Tracks: Indian SummerIntro; Tommyhawk; Indian Summer; I'm Glad There Is You; But Not For Me; My Funny Valentine; Tommyhawk; Indian Summer; Someone To Watch Over Me; Imagination: C.T.A; Exitus..
Personnel: Chet Baker: trumpet, vocals; Dick Twardzik: piano; Jimmy Bond: bass; Peter Littman: drums.
Tracks: Moonlight In Vermont; Maid In Mexico; Imagination; Band Aid; Happy Little Sunbeam; Ergo; Moonlight Becomes You; A Little Duet; But Not For Me (vocal), But Not For Me (instrumental); There Will Never Be Another You; Look For The Silver Lining; My Funny Valentine (vocal); I Fall In Love Too Easily; Line For Lyons; Lover Man; My Funny Valentine (instrumental); Zing Went The Strings Of My Heart; Little Man You've Had A Busy Day; Long Ago And Far Away; Sad Walk; Tenderly; Chet; Everything Happens To Me; Tasty Pudding; That Old Feeling; I've Never Been In Love Before; Sonny Boy; My Ideal; To Mickey's Memory; A Foggy Day; Darn That Dream; Tenderly; Love Nest; Hugo Hurwhey.
Personnel: Chet Baker: trumpet, vocals; various artists.