192

Chet Baker: Chet

By

Sign in to view read count
Chet Baker: Chet With his striking good looks, withdrawn stage presence, and reserved improvisational approach, trumpeter Chet Baker embodied everything that was "cool about jazz in the 1950s. He was peerless when it came to playing ballads, using simplistic phrasing and a tone that was at once unassuming, fragile, stirring, and sexy.

His experience as a singer undoubtedly influenced his interpreting the American popular songbook. By choosing not to use excessive embellishments the focus is shifted back to melody and away from ornamentation. Baker had an unrivaled ability to draw the essence out of any song and communicate meaning without words.

Chet (Riverside, 1959) was recorded near the beginning of his heroin addiction, so inconsistency can be anticipated. When playing in the middle register of his trumpet, Baker's tone is warm, inviting, and sensuous. On the rare occasions he exceeds his comfortable range, however, his sound weakens and his flexibility suffers. Still, like a master painter with a single brush and one color, Baker has the ability to make magic out of his limited resources. Throughout the entire record, his phrasing lags behind the beat and his airy attacks paint an image of him dragging his feet to catch up with his band mates. This sluggishness is very effective, lulling listeners into a hazy, dream-like state. His use of space creates mesmerizing moments of suspenseful and intense silences.

Baker's cast of sidemen is superb. Pianist Bill Evans, though entirely too low in the mix throughout, uses sparsely placed and colorfully voiced chords that add a deceptive harmonic depth while remaining empathetic to Baker's vulnerability. Flutist Herbie Mann, given the challenging duty of arranging for a trumpet/flute/baritone sax frontline at these dreadfully slow tempos, succeeds in penning some skeletal sketches which encourage the less-is-more approach that dominates the album. Pepper Adams' edgy baritone adds an East Coast sensibility along with Paul Chambers' heavy, resonant bass. Guitarist Kenny Burrell replaces Evans on two tracks and drummers Philly Joe Jones and Connie Kay are sensitive and supportive.

The tunes on Chet are all down-tempo ballads. Often referred to as the "junkie beat," they range from a bedroom tiptoe, to an unhurried stroll, to a stoned stumble through a moonlit alley. Four out of the eight musicians on the record were addicts, making it quite impressive that tempos this slow could be pulled off with such precision. Evans' spare introduction on "Alone Together instantly sets an eerie mood; Baker's languid solo is haunting and ghostly. "It Never Entered My Mind, one of the highlights of the album, finds Baker's lonely sound truly expressing the lyrics' yearning for a lost love. Again paying keen attention to lyrics and mood, Baker's interpretation of "Time on My Hands is comparatively upbeat. He utilizes less space and more twisting, complicated runs, yet still remaining thoughtful and romantically poetic.

In Baker's uneven discography, Chet stands out as one of the trumpeter's classic records.


Track Listing: Alone Together; How High the Moon; It Never Entered My Mind; 'Tis Autumn; If You Could See Me Now; September Song; You'd Be So Nice to Come Home To; Time On My Hands; You and the Night and the Music; Early Morning Mood.

Personnel: Chet Baker: trumpet; Pepper Adams: baritone saxophone; Herbie Mann: flute; Bill Evans: piano; Kenny Burrell: guitar; Philly Joe Jones: drums; Connie Kay: drums; Paul Chambers: bass.

Title: Chet | Year Released: 2007 | Record Label: Riverside


Tags

comments powered by Disqus

More Articles

Read Crossing CD/LP/Track Review Crossing
by Geno Thackara
Published: June 25, 2017
Read Unit[e] CD/LP/Track Review Unit[e]
by Karl Ackermann
Published: June 25, 2017
Read Such A Sky CD/LP/Track Review Such A Sky
by Bruce Lindsay
Published: June 25, 2017
Read Buer: Book Of Angels Volume 31 CD/LP/Track Review Buer: Book Of Angels Volume 31
by Dan McClenaghan
Published: June 25, 2017
Read BACHanalia CD/LP/Track Review BACHanalia
by Jack Bowers
Published: June 24, 2017
Read Hallways CD/LP/Track Review Hallways
by Paul Rauch
Published: June 24, 2017
Read "In Love With" CD/LP/Track Review In Love With
by Eyal Hareuveni
Published: July 25, 2016
Read "Process And Reality" CD/LP/Track Review Process And Reality
by Mark Corroto
Published: February 24, 2017
Read "N.O. Escape" CD/LP/Track Review N.O. Escape
by C. Michael Bailey
Published: March 26, 2017
Read "The Candy Men" CD/LP/Track Review The Candy Men
by Jack Bowers
Published: November 28, 2016
Read "Aziza" CD/LP/Track Review Aziza
by Dan Bilawsky
Published: October 19, 2016
Read "Of the Tree" CD/LP/Track Review Of the Tree
by Dave Wayne
Published: October 9, 2016

Join the staff. Writers Wanted!

Develop a column, write album reviews, cover live shows, or conduct interviews.