Hardly a month seems to go by without yet another reissue from Chet Baker’s extensive discography and Live At Nick’s is a fine example of his later work. Just like Sonny Stitt (aka the lone wolf) he lived a peripatetic existence, performing in town after town and country after country. Thorbjorn Sjogren’s exhaustive discography reveals that in November 1978, when this was recorded in Holland, he also had bookings in Berlin, Wilhelmshaven, Koln and Dortmund in Germany as well as Paris and Chateauvallon in France.
Much of the material here was quite new to him but the tunes became staples for the final decade of his career. Of course he frequently returned to This Is Always and I Remember You after he first introduced them with Russ Freeman back in 1955. He sings both of them here and they inevitably receive the loudest applause of the set. Attention begins to wander, however, during his scat chorus of Always, which is taken at a funereal tempo. That said, his singing became an essential part of his live performances.
He is inspired by the stimulating harmonies of Irving Berlin’s The Best Thing For You Is Me, which is taken at a fast clip of 80 bpm. Richie Beirach wrote Broken Wing especially for the trumpeter. It’s a gentle waltz and perfect for his lyrical introspection. Wayne Shorter’s Beautiful Black Eyes is a bossa, also ideally suited to Baker’s melodic creativity. Love For Sale finds the quartet building their inventions based on a repeated bass ostinato.
The leader has the benefit of a well-integrated trio of American accompanists led by Phil Markowitz. He had impressed Chet when he sat in at Strykers in New York in 1977. Baker said “(Phil) is one of the most inventive pianists of all time”. They carried on working together until 1983.
The Best Thing For You Is Me; Broken Wing; Beautiful Black Eyes; This Is Always; I Remember You; Love For Sale (69.00)
Baker (t, v); Phil Markowitz (p); Scott Lee (b); Jeff Brillinger (d). Laren, The Netherlands, 30 November 1978.
Criss Cross Jazz 1027 LP