Chet Baker – Chet

More Chet Baker

More Jazz Recordings Featuring the Trumpet

xxxxx

  • This outstanding pressing boasts solid Double Plus (A++) sound on both sides – fairly quiet vinyl too
  • This wonderful album of ballads has Mile Davis’ rhythm section supporting Chet and other greats such as Kenny Burrell and Bill Evans
  • These guys are playing live in the studio and, on a copy that sounds this clear, you can really feel their presence on every track
  • This Chet Baker record belongs in any serious jazz collection, and for you audiophiles out there, prepare to be shocked when you play this copy against your Heavy Vinyl pressing
  • “…this Riverside issue captures the gifted but troubled trumpeter at his best. It might even qualify as Baker’s most satisfying and representative recording.”

Chet is one of the best sounding Chet Baker records we’ve ever played, although that’s not saying much because finding good Chet Baker records is like finding hen’s teeth these days.

The albums he did for Pacific Jazz in the ’50s can be wonderful but few have survived in audiophile playing condition.

The Mariachi Brass albums are as awful as everyone says — we know, we too have played them. The album he recorded for CTI in 1974, She Was Too Good To Me, is excellent and will be coming to the site again soon I hope.

We’d never heard the record sound better than in our most recent shootout, and that’s coming from someone who’s been playing the album since it was first reissued in the ’80s.

The less said about the awful Doug Sax remastering for Analogue Productions in the mid-’90s the better. What a murky piece of crap that was. Audiophile reviewers may have been impressed, but even way back then we knew a bad sounding record when we played one, and that pressing is very bad indeed.

One further note: the Heavy Vinyl pressings being made today, twenty-five years later, have a similar suite of shortcomings, sounding every bit as bad if not worse, and fooling the same audiophile reviewers and their followers to this very day. Nothing has changed, other than we have come along to offer the discriminating audiophile an alternative to the muddy messes these labels have been churning out.

Like this one! 

Based on what I’m hearing my feeling is that most of the natural, full-bodied, smooth, sweet sound of the album is on the master tape, and that all that was needed to get that vintage sound correctly on to disc was simply to thread up that tape on a reasonably good machine and hit play.

The fact that nobody seems to be able to make an especially good sounding record — certainly not as good sounding as this one — these days tells me that in fact I’m wrong to think that such an approach would work. Somebody should have been able to figure out how to do it by now. In our experience that is simply not the case today, and has not been for many years.

George Horn was doing brilliant work for Fantasy all through the ’80s. This album is proof that his sound is the right sound for this music.

What the Best Sides of Chet Have to Offer Is Not Hard to Hear

  • The biggest, most immediate staging in the largest acoustic space
  • The most Tubey Magic, without which you have almost nothing. CDs give you clean and clear. Only the best vintage vinyl pressings offer the kind of Tubey Magic that was on the tapes in 1959
  • Tight, note-like, rich, full-bodied bass, with the correct amount of weight down low
  • Natural tonality in the midrange — with all the instruments having the correct timbre
  • Transparency and resolution, critical to hearing into the three-dimensional studio space

No doubt there’s more but we hope that should do for now. Playing the record is the only way to hear all of the qualities we discuss above, and playing the best pressings against a pile of other copies under rigorously controlled conditions is the only way to find a pressing that sounds as good as this one does.

Side One Vs Side Two

Going back through a big pile of copies I was struck by the fact that the sonic grades for side two are fairly consistently one half grade lower than those for side one. Why that is I have no idea; side two may be a bit more complex and therefore harder to master and press. For whatever reason, many copies had a slightly better sounding side one than side two.

What We’re Listening For on Chet

  • Energy for starters. What could be more important than the life of the music?
  • The Big Sound comes next — wall to wall, lots of depth, huge space, three-dimensionality, all that sort of thing.
  • Then transient information — fast, clear, sharp attacks, not the smear and thickness so common to these LPs.
  • Tight punchy bass — which ties in with good transient information, also the issue of frequency extension further down.
  • Next: transparency — the quality that allows you to hear deep into the soundfield, showing you the space and air around all the instruments.
  • Extend the top and bottom and voila, you have The Real Thing — an honest to goodness Hot Stamper.

The Players

A Must Own Jazz Record

This Demo Disc Quality recording should be part of any serious Audiophile Jazz Collection. Others that belong in that category can be found here.

TRACK LISTING

Side One

Alone Together
How High The Moon
It Never Entered My Mind
‘Tis Autumn

Side Two

If You Could See Me Now
September Song
You’d Be So Nice To Come Home To
Time On My Hands
You And The Night And The Music

All About Jazz

A popular 1959 release by Chet Baker, this Riverside issue captures the gifted but troubled trumpeter at his best. It might even qualify as Baker’s most satisfying and representative recording.

Although Baker’s reputation as a singer has steadily risen, those who tend to dismiss his androgynous vocals as secondary to his trumpet playing will be happy to know that on Chet he devotes himself exclusively to the horn. Moreover, for all of the stereotypical notions about 1950s West Coast jazz as sterile, “white, and cerebral, this is truly bicoastal and genre-resistant music.

Call it Art Pepper Meets the Rhythm Section: The Sequel, with Baker replacing the original star of the legendary session that featured the altoist with a supporting cast of Miles Davis’ rhythm section. The only difference is that by the time of Baker’s meeting with the era’s most admired supporting trio, pianist Bill Evans had replaced Red Garland—hardly a setback for Baker’s exquisitely minimalist approach on this occasion.

Baker’s playing on some contemporaneous dates comes close to conventional bebop [Picture of Heath (Pacific Jazz, 1961)], whereas some later recordings suffer from voguish over-production. Chet, on the other hand, is a session that allows the trumpeter to take his introspective time, encouraged by Evans’ spare accompaniment to transform these standards into vibrant, impressionistic etchings.

Moreover, the date isn’t weighed down by the cloying sponginess of some later Baker period pieces with electronic synths and reverb assists [She Was Too Good for Me (Columbia, 1974)]. These are beautiful deconstructions of familiar pieces, each slowed to a virtually tempo-less, seductively languorous meditation—a sigh, a whisper, a breath of spring (and autumn).

Evans’ crystalline piano voicings provide a mood-setting introduction reminiscent of his lead-in for Miles Davis on Blue in Green [Kind of Blue (Columbia, 1959)], here doing the same for the equally laconic Baker on the first eight bars of Alone Together. Pepper Adams’ baritone maintains the mournful spell on the second eight before Herbie Mann’s bottomed-out flute whispers the bridge, leading to a chorus by Baker that seems more soliloquy than solo.

“How High the Moon must be the most slow and deliberative version of this 1940s swing classic ever recorded, while “‘Tis Autumn, with a short but especially evocative introduction by Evans, virtually erases time and motion on what certainly has to be the definitive version of this venerable standard. Baker’s articulations and tones—vibratoless, initially squeezed and accompanied by a little rush of audible air prior to the registering of a musical pitch—penetrate the stillness with almost eerily Davis-like poignancy.

Guitarist Kenny Burrell spells Evans on a couple of tracks and drummer Connie Kay does the same for Philly Joe Jones who, along with Evans and bassist Paul Chambers, offers further testimony to Miles Davis’ unerring judgment in picking rhythm sections. The set comes down to earth by closing with a moody, extended, quasi-grooving blues, giving the lie to those who claim Bill Evans couldn’t play the elemental twelve-bar form.

By SAMUEL CHELL

Leave a Reply