Chet Baker: In New York

The trumpeter is compelling in 1958 accompanied by the leading New Yorkers Johnny Griffin, Al Haig, Paul Chambers and Philly Joe Jones

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Unlike the disappointing album he recorded with Stan Getz earlier in 1958, this date with a formidable group of New Yorkers finds Chet Baker in compelling form. His playing is far removed from his earlier Californian-based Downbeat-winning days.

Half the titles benefit from the presence of Johnny Griffin, who had been enjoying an extended run at the Five Spot with Thelonious Monk. His highly charged almost vocalised tenor was quite different to the Pres-inspired horns Baker had performed with on the West Coast. Baker stretches out confidently on Fair Weather and Griffin, who makes his entrance with an arresting arpeggio, muscles his way through two soulful choruses.

The uptempo Hotel 49 by the obscure Philadelphia-based trumpeter Owen Marshall finds Baker riding the crest of Philly Joe Jones’ explosive drum accents with aplomb. Griffin contributes another of his rugged, take-no-prisoners statements leading to an extensive arco bass solo. This became something of a Paul Chambers speciality – very much an acquired taste for the listener.

Chuck Wayne’s intriguing Solar remained in Baker’s repertoire throughout his career. A minor blues with some harmonic variations it’s dressed up here with a four-bar vamp at the beginning of each chorus creating an air of tension and release throughout.

Chet uses the patented Miles Davis middle-eight on When Lights Are Low. Just like Miles’ 1953 recording he ignores composer Benny Carter’s sublime construction by simply moving the A section up a fourth to create a new bridge. This LP reissue includes Soft Winds which was not on the original album.

Discography
(1) Fair Weather; (2) Polka Dots And Moonbeams; (1) Hotel 49; (2) Solar; (1) Blue Thoughts; (2) When Lights Are Low; Soft Winds (56.6)
(1) Baker (t); Johnny Griffin (ts); Al Haig (p); Paul Chambers (b); Philly Joe Jones (d). New York, September 1958.
(2) as (1) omit Johnny Griffin (ts).
Jazz Wax Records JWR 4607