Chet Baker & Bill Evans: Complete Recordings

The interiorist duo focus on restrained (bordering on monotonous) ballad readings in sessions occasionally lit up by Pepper Adams and others


These late 1950s collaborations, the only ones between two promising musicians (and fellow addicts) Baker and Evans, together with such emerging luminaries as Herbie Mann, Pepper Adams, Kenny Burrell and Zoot Sims, have been available on LP and CD for many years.

Now they have been transferred to high-quality vinyl with a perceptible improvement in sound. They originally appeared on the LPs Chet: The Lyrical Trumpet Of Chet Baker and are coupled here with extracts from the album Chet Baker Plays The Best Of Lerner And Loewe. For better or worse, Baker does not feature as vocalist on any of these dates. But he obviously relished the company of the then little-known Evans, who is rather overshadowed by an equally introspective, lyrical Baker and a full-voiced Pepper Adams.

Most of the tracks are restrained (bordering on monotonous) interpretations of well-known ballads, with Adams raising the temperature on How High The Moon, You’d Be So Nice To Come Home To and Early Morning Mood. That said, Baker’s plangent voicing is a minor marvel. The titles taken from Lerner and Loewe session are spritelier than those on the Lyrical Trumpet date.

Zoot Sims plays alto on Thank Heaven For Little Girls and tenor on Show Me. Herbie Mann, who contributed some ensemble scores for several of the tracks, also turns in satisfactory performances on Mood and Show Me. Connie Kay and Philly Joe Jones gently propel the proceedings in their respective appearances. On the “bonus” track – Almost Like Being In Love – Bob Corwin replaces Evans, and Sims and Mann are on tenors.

This is a pleasant but hardly essential compilation, best suited to Baker and/or Evans completists. Orrin Keepnews in his original liner note to The Lyrical Trumpet commended the “overall cohesiveness and beauty that makes this . . . an unusually pleasurable and warm listening experience”. In contrast, Evans biographer Keith Shadwick comments that Keepnews’ verdict “today read[s] almost as an apologia for the general lassitude”. To which I would add that the meagre overall playing time and a signal failure to supplement the original liner notes are regrettable.

LP1: Alone Together; How High The Moon; It Never Entered My Mind; ‘Tis Autumn (20.05) – If You Could See Me Now; September Song; You’d Be So Nice To Come Home To; Time On My Hands; You And The Night And The Music (21.06)
LP2: Early Morning Mood; Show Me (15.33) – I Talk To The Trees; Thank Heaven For Little Girls; I Could Have Danced All Night; *Almost Like Being In Love (18.95)

Baker (t) and Evans (p) on all tracks with, collectively: Herbie Mann (f); Zoot Sims (as, ts); Pepper Adams (bar); Kenny Burrell (g); Paul Chambers, Earl May (b); Connie Kay, Philly Joe Jones, Clifford Jarvis (d). New York, 30 December 1958, 19 January 1959, 22 July 1959. *Bonus track: Bob Corwin (p) replaces Evans. New York, 21 July 1959.