Recent listening, current

Saturday, September 7, 2013

134. Chet Baker / Live in '64 and '79 (2006)

Baker's music definitely matured, although his development is sometimes difficult to appreciate given how his drug habit impacted his life and performances. This DVD from Jazz Icons shows him playing with two European groups, 15 years apart. In the '64 quintet I sense tension between the underplayed Baker and overactive pianist Rene Utreger, who is constantly throwing heavy handed chords at the end of Chet's phrases, sometimes before they appear to be completed. It's like a leadership dispute, and the band or producers clearly have their own ideas about who falls where. In spite, Baker manages a lovely "Time After Time," though the quintet's take on "So What" seems like a missed opportunity. Baker has trouble finding space to express himself and fights with the group, and also has difficulty with the intonation. The second performance is from '79 and begins with an interview that segues into "Blue Train," in progress. Baker says his lyrical approach to improvising has become more subtle with experience and the performance reflects this. The drummerless quartet is much more together than the '64 group, thankfully, and Baker's rich sumptuous tone pervades the set. Although "Blue Train" is truncated (which stinks, because what we do hear is beautiful), we get a heavy swinging and creative take on "Softly As In a Morning Sunrise" with Baker's smoothly flowing melodic improvisation, the occasionally interesting turn of a chord, and overriding melancholic appeal. Also notable are pianist and vibraphonist Michele Graillie and Wolfgang Lackerschmid. I like this installment of Jazz Icons for the contrast it provides between a younger Baker and an older, perhaps wiser player with a more respectful band.  

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