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Chet Baker and Jon Eardley in Cologne


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On May 21 and 23 of 1981, trumpeter Chet Baker performed at the Salt Peanuts Club in Cologne, Germany. Backing him were Jon Eardley (fhrn), Bob Mover (as), Dennis Luxion (p), Rocky Knauer (b) and Burkhart Ruckert (d, only on the first three tracks). Now Germany's Circle Records has released a streaming remaster of the performance on 'Round Midnight: Chet Baker Live in Cologne, culled from the gigs. Mark Wingfield did an incredible job on the remastering.

Rudolf Kreis, who founded Circle in 1976, recorded the performances in Cologne, where the label was located at the time. He knew the club's owner, Christoph Höver. The recording was first released in 1982 on vinyl.

The album openswith Prayer for the Newborn, a gorgeous composition by Luxion that features Baker, Eardley and Mover playing off each other. The standard My Ideal follows, with a reedy vocal by Baker. Tadd Dameron's Lady Bird is next. The next two songs—Thelonious Monk's 'Round Midnight and Sam Rivers's Beatrice—were recorded without drums.

What's notable about this album is its gentle, hammock-like quality. Baker and Eardley are gorgeous together and richly laid back, whether playing in unison or when one is playing lead and the other is on harmony. Add Mover on alto saxophone and you can hear the Pacific Coast.

I can't remember the last time I heard an album this beautiful that moved so cat-like. Quite remarkable. The microphones caught the horns clearly, the piano is a bit less pronounced, the bass even less so and the drums could have been across the street. Nonetheless, it's one of the best Baker albums I've heard in some time. The poetic playing is touching and enveloping.

Chet Baker died in 1988; Jon Eardley died in 1991.

JazzWax clip: Here's Lady Bird...

And here's Prayer for the Newborn...

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This story appears courtesy of JazzWax by Marc Myers.
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