Chet Baker: In Europe – A Jazz Tour Of The NATO Countries

In Paris in 1955, the trumpeter blithely carried on in usual style, untroubled by contractual and personnel problems


In 1955 Chet Baker embarked on a long tour of Europe. His regular pianist, Russ Freeman, refused to go because Baker and drummer Littman were heroin addicts, and he knew addicts hung out together and he foresaw problems. Baker recruited Dick Twardzik, a unique piano stylist but a fellow addict and flew off to Paris.

Musically, the tour began very well and Baker was recruited by Barclay Records in Paris to record two albums. Six of the tracks he recorded for Barclay were taken by World Pacific in California for half of this LP. Five of the eight on a second Barclay disc formed the first side on Pacific’s album when he arrived back home. But Baker was under contract to World Pacific, and they were angry that he had recorded in Paris without permission. Barclay were instructed to send the master tapes to Pacific. This album was the only official album of the European tour.

That wasn’t the only problem for Baker. The six tracks presented here with Twardzik are very good, with new material by Bob Zieff and Twardzik taking Chet out of his comfort zone of pretty pops and standards. He negotiates these themes carefully and plays neat improvisations on them as the pianist provides chunky chords and a few off-centre touches in a smooth recital that makes him sound like a sort of sophisticated Thelonious Monk. The Girl From Greenland is the highlight, with Baker on top form and the rhythm section driving him on crisply, Twardzik on celeste. Seven days later Twardzik died suddenly in his hotel room from a heroin overdose.

Drummer Littman, in a state of shock, left the band and flew straight back to California. Baker recruited French pianist Gustin and drummer Dahlander and carried on regardless with only bassist Bond left of his original quartet. The five (1) sides take Chet back to his familiar standards and he plays well enough on these, Tenderly and Autumn In New York being particularly lyrical. Gustin fits in as well as could be expected and Dahlander is quiet, subdued almost in accompaniment. Baker and Bond sound unfazed throughout.

And so, the tour continued into 1956 with Baker not having to face the music of World Pacific’s anger until he returned home. There is no denying that Baker plays well up to his usual standard on all these tracks as he had a knack of adapting quickly to whatever situation he found himself in. The album features the original World Pacific artwork and is well recorded. WaxTime boast that this is an audiophile pressing and a limited edition.

(1) Summertime: You Go To My Head; Tenderly; Autumn In New York; There’s A Small Hotel (2) Rondette; Piece Caprice; Mid-Forte; Pomp; Sad Walk; The Girl From Greenland (52.38)
Baker (t) with:
(1) Gerard Gustin (p); Jimmy Bond (b); Bert Dahlander (d). Paris, 24 October 1955.
(2) Dick Twardzik (p, cel); Jimmy Bond (b); Peter Littman (d). Paris, 11 & 14 October 1955.
WaxTime 772344