Recent listening, current

Friday, January 25, 2013

14. Chet Baker / Chet (1958)

I find Chet in a lot of those "best of" lists that describe it as essential listening, which I have a hard time understanding. I have mixed feelings about Baker, whose playing is often delicately soulful or angelic, but to my ears, lacks a crucial distinguishing feature. I've listened to many his records from the '50s on up, and this ballads-only outing from 1958 is immaculately performed and rather beautiful, but not terribly exciting. Still, it's the Baker album that gets the most play around my house. His band keeps a lid on their playing, which compresses the emotional impact of each ballad and causes them to smolder. Bill Evans, master of the devastating understatement, plays piano while Pepper Adams plays baritone. There isn't a tenor in sight, so the textures are a nice change of pace and along with the trumpet. make quite a romantic atmosphere. The group has a nose like a bloodhound to sniff out the heart of the ballad and lay it bare before the audience. In such a way, a few of these old chestnuts really shine, which is a good thing because there aren't any surprises in the playlist.

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