Giving Miles Davis a run for his money in terms of who’s ‘coolest’, this is an album of pure jazz perfection. A stunning recording, from RCA Italia in 1962, it features 8 BeBop jams from trumpeter Baker and his band. These jams are loose in terms of their wonderfully swinging rhythm, but the band are as tight as an Italian coutured suit. There are some familiar tunes on here such as These Foolish Things and Over The Rainbow, which in their masterful (jazz) hands are so much more than a cover.
There’s some great guitar playing on here also from Rene Thomas and the whole Sextet provides a varied sound palette for Baker’s particular brand of smooth jazz.
The CD copy I have of this is from a 50-CD box set that has featured earlier with Mulligan and Desmond’s Two of a Mind album. It’s a facsimile of the original, so it was rather a surprise when after the original 8 track album finishes, there’s another uncredited 4 tracks of something really very different. According to Allmusic.com these are songs Baker recorded with Ennio Morricone around the same time as the session for Chet is Back! They are Chetty’s Lullaby, So che ti perderò, Motivo su raggio di luna, and Il mio domani, the last three being released in Italy as singles around the time. An interesting footnote is that he wrote these four songs whilst in prison in Italy for 18 months for drug smuggling and forgery. I confess when I heard them, I assumed it was an Italian woman singing with a particularly low (and very sexy) voice. He has an amazing crooner-style high tenor voice, so his vocals were a revelation for me, I knew him only as a trumpeter.
He had a pretty colourful life, struggling with drug addiction, in and out of jail, and losing many of his teeth in a flight. If this was his first comeback, then he another in the late 70s, and then in the 80s playing and recording with Elvis Costello. Sadly he died before the decade was out, falling out of the window of his hotel in Amsterdam. Live fast, die young: play jazz.
Best Bits: Blues In the Closet, for the awesome drum and bass solos swinging back and forth between them
Like This, Try This: Elvis Costello’s incredible song, Shipbuilding (about the Falklands War) featuring Chet on trumpet.