Chet Baker Quintet Featuring Warne Marsh: Blues For A Reason

1984 Dutch session is a good demonstration of Marsh's advanced command of harmony, one that apparently intimidated Stan Getz

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A few years ago Hod O’Brien told me about this session, which is the only time Chet Baker and Warne Marsh recorded together. He said “Warne was a very important saxophone player who used the upper partials which are the tones above the sevenths. His ability to handle that part of the harmonic spectrum was remarkable.”

Just like other members of Lennie Tristano’s school Marsh concentrated on an area of harmony avoided by most soloists, combined with a rhythmic displacement that created its own unique sense of swing – the sound of surprise indeed. Peter Ind once recalled a time at Tristano’s studio in the early 50s when “Stan Getz was completely intimidated by Marsh who was so far ahead of him harmonically. Warne was ahead of nearly everyone ideas-wise.”

Chet Baker was on top of his game for the session possibly because of his admiration for the tenor man, whom he considered to be “an honest musician . . . not genuflecting before the almighty dollar”.

There is a mystery concerning composer credits here. O’Brien said “Chet didn’t know what to do so Warne took charge and ran the whole show. He picked the tunes, blew on the changes then retitled everything so he could get the royalties.” So much for Chet’s idea that Marsh didn’t care for money. This, of course, was Marsh’s modus operandi over the years and Well Spoken (based on Speak Low) has indeed been credited to him (Chet performing with a rarely used harmon is at his most Miles-like here). However, everything else apart from the two standards has been credited to Baker.

We Know It’s Love – a themeless What Is This Thing Called Love – is introduced by some intricate contrapuntal interplay. Looking Good Tonight is another themeless construction based on The Way You Look Tonight and Blues For A Reason is an examination of jazz music’s most basic harmony, one that Marsh usually avoided.


Discography
Well Spoken; If You Could See Me Now; We Know It’s Love; Looking Good Tonight (alt); Looking Good Tonight; Imagination; Blues For A Reason (51.46)
Baker (t); Marsh (ts); Hod O’Brien (p); Cecil McBee (b); Eddie Gladden (d). Monster, The Netherlands, 30 September 1984.
Criss Cross Jazz 1010 LP