Chet Baker: Blue Room – The 1979 Vara Studio Sessions In Holland

The trumpeter and singer appears on two previously unissued studio sets with Phil Markowitz, Jean-Louis Rassinfosse, Eric Ineke and others


This title’s made up of two previously unissued studio sets, one from April 1979 comprising all of the first CD and two tracks of the second, and the other, from November of the same year, making up the balance. Both capture the mature Baker in his prime.

Phil Markowitz, the pianist on both that first session and a set that Baker cut in Paris in 1978, was highly appreciative of Baker’s lyricism, as indeed many are, and that lyricism is one of the qualities exhibited throughout this set. It could be argued that Baker’s place among the greats rests on it in no small part.

On the first disc Irving Berlin’s The Best Thing For You is taken at a fairly up tempo. This has the effect of highlighting that lyricism as Baker goes about his musical business in a manner that emphasises how, almost three decades into his musical career, he knew the value of economy. By comparison Markowitz is expansive, in a manner that enhances the impression of Baker’s minimalism.

Baker’s vocalising is a taste I’ve never properly acquired, and his renditions of Oh, You Crazy Moon, Candy and My Ideal aren’t going to change that. As always, at least as far as I can hear, certain notes receive no more than approximately correct pitching. But I can appreciate how some may savour the poignancy of the voice.

Baker’s own Blue Gilles takes that combination of lyricism and economy and applies it fully. It seem improbable we’ll hear anything like it again. Time’s passing has ensured that jazz is now considered by many to be something different. No matter. These sessions are with us now, no longer hidden from history, and the world seems a better place because of it.

CD1: (1) Beautiful Black Eyes; Oh, You Crazy Moon; The Best Thing For You; Blue Room; Down (49.07)
CD2: Blue Gilles; Nardis; (2) Candy; Luscious Lou; My Ideal; Old Devil Moon (43.03)
(1) Baker (t, v); Phil Markowitz (p); Frans Elsen (p); Jean-Louis Rassinfosse (b); Victor Kaihatu (b); Charles Rice (d); Eric Ineke (d). VARA Studio 2, Hilversum, The Netherlands, 10 April 1979.
(2) same as (1) but 9 November 1979.
Jazz Detective DDJD-008