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While it's necessary to get things straight, especially for an artistic form as historically nebulous as jazz, let's not let the analysis and sorting of dates and places lead us astray from the reason we listen to the music itself.
James A. Harrod does a fine job of describing the circumstances behind the recordings that led to this re-issue. But the essence of "This Time The Dream's On Me" is an achievement, and not an event. Leave it to a quote from Gerry Mulligan to capture that essence: "I've never been around anybody who had a quicker relationship between his ears and his fingers." Well said.
For listeners who became accustomed to Chet Baker's longer tones and balladic approach to songs, even though they may not have become accustomed to his singing, it was easy to forget the excitement and freshness that Baker brought to jazz. Not only was Baker a melodic trumpet player, original in his own way by refusing to follow other obvious influences, but also he was an effortless technician. His work on Russ Freeman's "Maid In Mexico" combines precision in approach with an easy swing. His version of "My Funny Valentine" doesn't possess the attenuated consistency found on his later albums, but instead begins with a dramatic roll on the tom-tom followed by an understated tension and under-the-surface tension.
Documentarians would be interested in knowing that "This Time The Dream's On Me" consists of two live sessions: one in 1953 at the Carlton Theater in L.A. and the other in 1954 at the Masonic Temple in Ann Arbor. The Los Angeles performance previously was unreleased, and the Michigan concert was recorded on Pacific Jazz as "Jazz At Ann Arbor." What this means when one considers the talent and persona of Chet Baker is that we get to hear his voice as he introduces numbers, and we get to compare his group's responses to audience reaction. The Ann Arbor event clearly was the more invigorating. Baker's interchange with the audience was more spontaneous in Ann Arbor and his playing had more fire.
Yes, it seems strange to describe Baker's playing as being on fire, but in a smoldering kind of way, it was. His youthful enthusiasm and quickness of thought project through the decades, allowing us to consider his story in reverse as we apply our assumptions of his latter-year performances to the drive of his first live recorded performances.
All The Things You Are; Isn't It Romantic; Maid In Mexico; My Funny Valentine; This Time The Dream's On Me; Line For Lyons; Lover Man; My Funny Valentine; Maid In Mexico; Stella By Starlight; My Old Flame; Russ Job
Chet Baker, trumpet; Russ Freeman, piano; Carson Smith, bass; Larry Bunker, Bob Neel, drums
Years ago now--in Rhodesia--listening to Voice of America with Willis Conover I heard Bunk Johnson play When The Saints Go Marching In, and Billie Holiday sing Don't Explain. I knew then there was no other life for me than jazz.