Chet Baker: I Get Chet

Vinyl sampler of the trumpeter's mid-50s Paris recordings for Barclay has him playing with fluency and feeling alongside Jaspar, Boland et al

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These recordings were made by Baker for the Barclay label on his first European tour in 1955-6, visiting France, Denmark, Italy and West Germany. In Paris he was persuaded by Nicole Barclay to make seven albums, but delivered only three. On tour, he was accompanied by his American sidemen – pianist Dick Twardzik, bassist Jimmy Bond and drummer Peter Littman. Unfortunately, Twardzik, a promising artist died (aged 24) in Paris from a heroin overdose before these studio dates were made. His death left Chet, already an addict, deeply depressed, guilt-ridden and heading for a troubled life of self-destruction.

These sessions have been previously released on various labels, most notably four EmArcy CDs; this compilation is only a sampler – although a good one: on all of these recordings Chet played with a delightful fluency and feeling.

In Paris he was joined on separate dates by the accomplished Belgian tenorist and flautist Bobby Jaspar, and on other occasions by pianists Francy Boland and Raymond Fol and bassist Benoit Quersin. In his original sleeve notes, Daniel Halperin comments on the evident rapport between Chet and Bobby, as revealed in the only two titles they recorded together (How About You? and Cheketah) without “the least doubt or difficulty between them as regards conception, beat or feeling”. They could, to adapt a phrase, be considered a quietly dynamic duo.

On a jolly Dinah, Chet delivers a crystal clear solo (with hints of the young Miles). Al Cohn makes only a brief appearance on his composition Tasty Pudding, while Anticipated Blues (a Baker original) features the composer, pianist Boland and tenorist Jean-Louis Chautemps in perfect harmony, gently propelled by drummer Charles Saudrais.

The Phil Urso composition Exitus, the longest track at over eight minutes, is arguably the best. Baker fashions a plaintive open-horn solo in the lower register which lingers in the mind (and ear) long after its conclusion. Ray Fol offers a sensitive contribution before Chet returns to end the proceedings. The remaining and shorter performances make for enjoyable if not essential listening.

Attractively produced, in excellent sound and with informative additional comments by Anon, this vinyl issue is a welcome – if expensive – package. But – and perhaps keep this to yourselves – it’s also available as an MP3 download at the mini-budget price of £1.79.

Discography
(1) How About You? (2) Once In A While; (1) Cheketah; (2) Alone Together; (3) Chet – (3) Dinah; (4) Tasty Pudding; Anticipated Blues; (5) V Line; (2) Exitus; (4) Cheryl (46.18)
Baker (t) on all tracks with:
(1) Bobby Jaspar (ts); Maurice Vander (p); Benoit Quersin (b); Jean-Louis Viale (d).
(2) Raymond Fol (p); Quersin (b); Viale (d).
(3) Benny Vasseur (tb); Jean Aldegon (as); Armand Migiani (ts); William Boucaya (bar); Rene Urteger (p); Jimmy Bond (b); Bert Dahlander (d).
(4) Jean-Louis Chautemps (ts); Francy Boland (p); Eddie de Haas (b; Charles Saudrais (d).
(5) Vasseur (tb); Teddy Ameline (as); Migiani (ts); Boucaya (bar); Boland (p); Quersin (b); Pierre Lamarchand (d); Pierre Michelot (cond).
Paris, 26 December 1956, 28 November 1955, 25 October, 1955, 10 February 1956, 15 March 1956.
Waxtime In Color 950727