Baker began his comeback after five years of musical inactivity with this excellent CTI date. Highlights include "Autumn Leaves," "Tangerine," and "With a Song in My Heart." Altoist Paul Desmond is a major asset on two songs and the occasional strings give variety to this fine session.
This highly enjoyable 1993 CD issue compiles the original six-song Chet Baker Sextet 10" EP as well as the Chet Baker Big Band 12" album. Although these two sessions were held more than two years apart, this was due primarily to an extended European tour during the intervening months and Baker's obvious unavailability stateside. Releasing an entire album under the moniker Chet Baker Big Band is a bit of a misnomer, as only the first four sides actually incorporate an 11-person configuration. The remaining tracks from the long-player feature a slightly smaller nonet configuration. Among the luminaries joining Baker (trumpet) and participating in the big-band arrangements are Art Pepper (alto sax), Bud Shank (alto sax), Phil Urso (tenor sax), and Bobby Timmons (piano).
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."
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.
Although Chet Baker's recordings from late in his life varied dramatically in quality, this series of studio sessions is a high point in his career. After having his trumpet stolen, he plays beautifully with a borrowed flügelhorn throughout most of these songs with a powerful tone, especially on "Baby Breeze" and Hal Galper's intense "This Is the Thing." Baker delivers some strong vocals on the session led by pianist Bobby Scott, though Scott's huge hit "A Taste of Honey" is marred somewhat by his odd honky tonk piano in the background.
This is a very under-rated album. The complaints are that the strings are too syrupy, yet one of Chet's most critically successful albums was Chet With Strings. This album is just as good as that one or Grey December, which also has strings. In fact, while all the songs are very good, it's worth buying just for Sammy Cahn's "I Should Care", Chet playing the BEST version of that song I have ever heard, with a GREAT string arrangement!! If you like Chet, even casually, you can't go wrong with this charming album.
Chet Baker Ensemble collects all the tracks recorded by trumpeter Chet Baker and his group on a session for Pacific Jazz in late December of 1953. Having been released piecemeal on various albums over the years, this represents the first complete gathering of this material. Recorded less than two months before the legendary Chet Baker Sings sessions, these tracks showcase the young Baker as a hardcore jazz trumpeter before the public became overwhelmingly infatuated with his unique vocal abilities.