Chet Baker's West Coast cool comes to the Big Apple on Chet Baker in New York. The project would be Baker's first – in a four album deal – with the Big Apple-based Riverside Records. The bicoastal artist incorporates his decidedly undernourished sound and laid-back phrasing into the styling of Al Haig (piano), Johnny Griffin (tenor sax), Paul Chambers (bass), and Philly Joe Jones (drums)…
Whether as a trumpeter or singer, Chet Baker was always the subject of controversy among jazz listeners, a victim of fashion who was doomed in his lifetime to be either over- or underrated. These Pacific Jazz recordings from the mid-1950s present Baker the instrumentalist at the height of his popularity. While his coolly passive treatments of ballads like "Imagination" and "Stella by Starlight" may play to the languid stereotype of West Coast jazz, there's boppish fire and invention on the medium- and up-tempo tunes, with Baker emphasizing the middle register that was his forte. Altoist Art Pepper and valve trombonist Bob Brookmeyer turn up among the supporting cast, and there's a good choice of material by boppish heads from both coasts, including Carson Smith's "Carson City Stage," Jimmy Heath's "C.T.A.," and Al Haig's "Jumping Off a Clef".
Having been reissued numerous times over the years under various titles, this Bluebird version of Chet Is Back! stands out as the definitive packaging of one of Chet Baker's best early-'60s recordings. Besides featuring the original artwork and liner notes – as well as detailed new liner notes from James Gavin, author of Deep in a Dream: The Long Night of Chet Baker – the real impetus to pick this up is the inclusion of four orchestral pop singles Baker recorded with Ennio Morricone around the same time as the album. Never before released in the U.S., these tracks were purportedly composed by the trumpeter/vocalist while serving jail time in Lucca, Italy after obtaining fake drug prescriptions.
In the summer of 1955, Chet Baker decided to go on a concert tour of Europe for a few weeks. He ended up staying there for more than six months, and his work and experiences during that time, which was mostly spent in Paris, should be crucial for his career and his life.
This is a rare album Chet Baker recorded in Belgium in 1980 with Steve Houben when he came from Paris and went to Holland and died shorty after. It was only released in Belgium and France in MICRO quantities.
The quality of Chet Baker's product was so varied during the last decade or more of his life that recording sessions varied markedly. For this "remixed version" of Mr. B Baker sounds a tad tired, though his chops are in fine form. The studio recording captures the trumpeter with highly sympathetic and self-effacing pianist Michel Grallier and bassist Ricardo Del Fra, both of whom engage in the leader's brand of sensitivity. There are no vocals by the trumpeter, but plenty of improvising. The interesting tune selection features a few songs played often by Baker (such as Wayne Shorter's "Dolphin Dance" and Horace Silver's "Strollin'"), but several that are not associated with him at all (Grallier's "White Blues" and his gorgeous "Father X-mas," to name a couple). There is a sadness permeating the trumpeter's sound throughout, exacerbated by the lazy, sometimes sluggish, tempos. A deep and touching beauty can be felt, marking this as one of Chet's best from the period.