Chet Baker Selection: E S P (1977)
Chet Baker (trumpet) Gregory Herbert (tenor saxophone) Harold Danko (piano) Ron Carter (bass) Mel Lewis (drums) recorded NYC, February 20, 1977
Summertime was recorded in the US shortly before Baker’s move to Europe, a full ten years after he lost his natural embouchure in 1968, in what was said to be a drug-related beating. One of the problems for musicians taking drugs was the criminals they had to deal with, getting their teeth knocked out, and on top of that, the police trying to bust them.
Trumpeters’ embouchure is crucial, but Baker eventually worked his way back from the loss to mastery of the instrument with the help of prosthetics. Some consider his playing at this time his most mature and rewarding: maturity coming with age, apparently. How else? Considering where one-time rival Miles Davis was at by 1977, Chet maintained a steady musical course.
I liked the strapline I read somewhere: You get to be young only once, but you can stay immature for as long as you like.
Both Miles and Chet could play it cool. Howeve,r Baker is the master of melodic construction, who lays down the notes he feels are right, in a natural flow, and without histrionics in the upper register, clean tone where say Miles would bend, or Lee Morgan and Kenny Dorham would fit in five notes. You have restraint and understatement, a statement in melody rather than embellishment.
During his decade in Europe, Baker recorded prolifically for smaller European jazz labels like Steeplechase, Enja and Timeless, up until his until his death in 1988, a second and final wind. There’s a few I picked up but haven’t much played, something which needs to be remedied.
Soft-focus and posterised, the handsome young Chet contrasts with the ravaged features of the real Chet at the end of the ’70s when Summertime was recorded. The point is how he plays, not how he looks, this is all about the music, he plays beautiful. What does his looks add or detract?
Vinyl: AH 9411 (second issue of AH 11)
Once Upon A Summertime is one of only fourteen albums issued John Snyder’s Artist’s House label, and now my third Artist’s House (I can highly recommend a little House hunting)
Stamps and etchings: Masterdisk, PRC, whatever, nothing here from around 1980 rings any bells. Extra matrix codes probably denote second mastering of this second issue of the original AH 11 (which I was exasperatingly unable to source). Whether that matters is mute – it’s a lovely recording: delicate full and rich. It predates the digital era by a vital margin of years and shows great craftsmanship in stereo engineering and vinyl production. It is not possible to play Artists House without sinking back into the sofa, melting with aural pleasure. Exquisite.
Artists House Insert
Artists House inserts seem obviously “hair shirt” – deliberately cheap looking production, worthy rather than glossy, fascinating photos on matt paper that never yields their full dynamic range, but painfully sincere. I’ve omitted the lengthy Baker discography, information better served on-line.
The best is the careful description of the microphones used for recording each instrument, worth the price of admission alone, microphone porn like this is good to find.
E.S.P. – the original Davis horn – fast backwards some twelve years, to 1965
Miles Davis Selection: E.S.P. (1965)
Miles Davis (trumpet) Wayne Shorter (tenor saxophone) Herb Hancock (piano) Ronald Carter (bass) Tony Williams (drums) recorded Columbia Studios, Los Angeles, CA, January 20-22, 1965
Mile Davis Second Great Quintet, limbering up, almost a year before the defining Plugged Nickel session and his last pre-electric phase, all that fantastic output between 1965 and 1969.
A reminder of the 1954 Downbeat poll for Trumpet:Chet Baker tops it, Miles Davis just makes it into the top ten
By all accounts Miles could be a pretty unpleasant character, but nothing of it shows in his music. Similarly Chet Baker’s drug habit and chaotic life leaves no marks on his music, likewise Art Pepper and many more. The men and the music live separate lives, which is why I don’t recommend reading autobiographies.
Miles Second Great Quintet always has a special place on the turntable: modal, spacious, probing, meshing, always engaging. After 1969, Hancock and Carter left to be replaced by Chick Corea and Dave Holland, a line up referred to by some as the “Miles Davis Lost Quintet”. The arrival of electric instruments and John McLaughlin was the point at which I reached for my coat and quietly let myself out the room. His electronic phase is not for me, though I know it has many fans. The ’60s vintage has matured well, the ’70s still sounds dated.
Davis expression prescient of the forthcoming split with his first wife Frances Taylor? An amazing photo, E.S.P. , how fitting.
CBS UK mono 1963 ( Columbia CL 2350) Matrix codes indicate Oriole pressing not a Philips, possibly one of the first for new master CBS. If I were to seek out this recording today, I would look for a US Columbia original.
Professor Jazz says: One of the benefits of a large record collection ( I tell myself whenever Mrs LJC opines I have “too many records”) is the opportunity to cross-refer from one album, artist or selection to another: the difference between one pressing and another, the difference between two artists on the same instrument or two artists on the same tune.
It all deepens your appreciation of the music, and the artists’ technical skills. You are learning to listen critically and attentively, advancing your listening skills.
As I like to say, there’s more to listening to music than just listening to music.
Another thing I have to say, I probably do have too many records ( but not to say out loud).