This 2012 disc gathers all known sides cut during a July 26, 1956 confab led by West Coast cool purveyors Chet Baker (trumpet) and Art Pepper (alto sax). Keen-eyed enthusiasts will note that this particular date occurred during a remarkable week – July 23 through July 31 – of sessions held at the behest of Pacific Jazz label owner and producer Dick Bock at the Forum Theater in Los Angeles. Recordings made during this week not only inform The Route, but three other long-players as well: Let's Get Lost, Chet Baker & Crew, and At the Forum Theater. These were likewise the first sides cut by Baker since returning from his triumphant and extended stay in Europe.
A pleasant set, distinguished for decent versions of Harold Danko's "Swift Shifting," Jon Burr's "Caravelle," and the Rodgers and Hart tune "Blue Moon," the trumpeter plays with a competent quartet that spurs him on. Although clearly weary, Baker's trumpet has some fire left, while his vocal articulation is below par. Still, the "feel" is always there, and even Baker on a less-than-perfect day is filled with joys. He solos on trumpet at length, at least as minimalist in style as ever. At this stage in his career, he remained capable of spine-tingling versions of "Round Midnight," with the trumpeter's laid-back breathy approach laying down perfectly placed notes…
Artists House, a classy if short-lived label, released this attractive Chet Baker LP, a quintet date with tenor saxophonist Gregory Herbert, pianist Harold Danko, bassist Ron Carter, and drummer Mel Lewis. The challenging material ("The Song Is You" is the only one of the five songs that is a standard) inspires the musicians to play creative solos. It is particularly interesting to hear Baker interpret the Wayne Shorter tune "ESP."
Pianist Duke Jordan's presence adds some punch and spark to this quartet session, which is further helped along by bassist Niels Henning-Orsted Pedersen and selections that are suited for Baker's increasingly mellow and wavering playing. … outstanding among [Chet’s] later recordings….This is a record to give a listener fresh heart…one feels there cannot be much wrong with jazz while it is producing records like this .
Chet Baker (trumpet) was arguably at the peak of his prowess when captured in a quartet setting at the Masonic Temple in Ann Arbor, MI, May 9, 1954. He's joined by Russ Freeman (piano), Carson Smith (bass) and Bob Neel (drums), all of whom provide ample assistance without ever obscuring their leader's laid-back and refined style. Baker's sublime sounds also garnered notice from critics, who had placed him atop polls in both Metronome and Down Beat magazines the previous year.