01 Dec CHET BAKER…ITALIAN MOVIES REVIEW ~ THE NEW YORK CITY JAZZ RECORD DECEMBER 2014
Hailing from Yale, Oklahoma, Chesney Henry “Chet” Baker, Jr. is the posthumous beneficiary of two new albums of early material out around what would have been his 85th birthday this month. Stories of Baker’s troubled life (he died in May 1988 at 58) seem hard to believe when one hears the beautiful playing on these recordings, captured in his prime and both recorded in Europe, where he was a fixture.
On Italian Movies, Baker is with his longtime friend and popular Italian composer Piero Umiliani. The set is comprised of music from the films Audace Colpo Dei Soliti Ignoti, I Soliti Ignoti, Urlatori Alla Sbarra, Intrigo a Los Angeles and Smog and feature the interesting juxtaposition of Baker’s spare trumpet with unusual, often comic, arrangements. The music to Intrigo a Los Angeles stands out as the best selections: “Minorenne Cercasi” is a beautiful bossa nova with wood blocks, cowbell and humorous musical tricks, Baker doubling a flute melody while using an uncharacteristic Harmon mute for a very unusual timbre. On “Comunicazione Spaziale” there is even a very modern tape echo loop, not a sound one usually associates with Baker. “Hollywood Tonight” from Smog features vibraphone and the hilariously square scatting of a mixed chorus; the first solo is an uncredited baritone saxophonist who plays a great bop lead followed again by the funny scatting of the possibly amateur chorus. The tune is fun and catchy and you will find yourself singing along. Generally the music on this collection is very light and easy and blends well with Baker’s gentle style.
These albums feature Baker at the height of his powers, his trumpet playing assured, beautifully lyrical and hard swinging, in unusual musical settings that will delight his fans.