Chet Baker Trio: Live In Paris

The trumpeter's singing can seem self-indulgent and narcissistic but the horn playing in this early 80s set has weathered well

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From the early days with Mulligan until his unfortunate death in 1988 (he fell or was pushed from an Amsterdam hotel window in 1988), Baker was one of the most delicate trumpet players in jazz. In these later tracks he displays a pleasing ability to create long, gentle solos on the horn. Everything about his playing also demonstrates an isolationist temperament. He would not be good at making room for another horn.

In February 1983, a few months before these sessions, Chet had toured in Scandinavia with Stan Getz. Unlike Chet, Stan had quit narcotics and he was fearful that Chet’s continued use of them would entrammel him in any trouble that the trumpeter was embroiled in. He treated Chet with contempt and eventually insisted that Chet be removed from the tour, so the trumpeter was paid off. It was the end of Chet’s career as a group player, and for his remaining years he played in this trio form.

Baker’s singing is hugely popular these days. To me it is self-indulgent and narcissistic, but I’m in a minority since it obviously has major appeal. The first track begins with a three-minute scat vocal which would have benefited from being replaced by a trumpet solo.

It is the subdued trumpet playing that has weathered well, with its clarity and logic still recalling the original Mulligan quartet. Graillier knows exactly what Baker needs and provides it in a continuous stream of chords which, because of the line-up, is inevitably prominent. He expands behind the vocals and solos well when given the chance. Both the bassists are adept and patient in their limited roles.

The accompanying 36-page booklet is superb and packed with interesting essays. Ashley Kahn notes Baker’s preference for playing without drums. “It makes it more like a chamber trio,” said Baker. “I’d prefer to play completely acoustic. The louder the music is, it seems the more people talk.”

Discography
CD1: (1) There Will Never Be Another You; Easy Living; But Not For Me; Stella By Starlight; (2) Funk In Deep Freeze; Just Friends (63.42)
CD2: Arbor Way; Strollin’; Margerine; Lament; Walkin’ (59.16)

(1) Baker (t, v); Michel Grallier (p); Dominique Lemerle (b). Paris, 17 June 1983.
(2) as (a) but Riccardo De Fra (b) replaces Lemerle. 7 February 1984.
Elemental Music 5990442