Two horns, one tune: E S P: Chet Baker (1977); Miles Davis (1963)

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Chet Baker Selection: E S P (1977)

Artists:

Chet Baker (trumpet) Gregory Herbert (tenor saxophone) Harold Danko (piano) Ron Carter (bass) Mel Lewis (drums) recorded NYC, February 20, 1977

Music:

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.

Cover:

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.

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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.

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Interpretation!!

E.S.P. – the original Davis horn – fast backwards some twelve years, to 1965

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Miles Davis Selection: E.S.P. (1965)

Artists:

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

Music

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

Chet-Baker-Downbeat-poll-1954

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.

Cover:

Davis expression prescient of the forthcoming split with his first wife Frances Taylor? An amazing photo, E.S.P. , how fitting.

Vinyl:

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.

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Collectors Corner

LJC-Michael-Caine- Professor Jazz fastshow30Professor 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).

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27 thoughts on “Two horns, one tune: E S P: Chet Baker (1977); Miles Davis (1963)

  1. Just wanted to say I have the Paul Desmond Artist’s House title, mastered by Robert Ludwig at Masterdisk, sounds excellent! I wasn’t expecting much either, based on the presentation, but you know the old saying, never judge a book (or album, in this case) by its’ cover.

  2. “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.”

    I have to respectfully disagree with that statement. Just because these men were far from perfect, doesn’t mean that they have to be separated form their great music.

    Miles Davis was clearly an asshole (I even refused to acknowledge his greatness for quite a long time, partly because of his statements about Oscar Peterson and Hank Mobley). But I think he was a suffering from racism, plus he seemed to be a rather introverted or sensitive person and probably felt misunderstood. When he opened his mouth to speak, this would result in ugly sentences, but when he took up his trumpet, he could express his feelings beautifully.

    Same is true for Art Pepper. If you read the first pages of his autobiography (I didn’t read much more because I was put off by the descriptions of his heroin escapades), you know that his parents didn’t want to have him and didn’t take care of him appropriately. That paved the path for his chaotic life, but also for his wonderful playing that is full of emotions – emotions created by his chaotic life.

    I think one of the reasons why contemporary jazz doesn’t compare to the golden age is because the musicians nowadays come from secure backgrounds and have stable more lives. They can worry about irrelevant concerns raised by their egos, while musicians like Miles Davis or Art Pepper played because they urgently needed to express themselves.
    That doesn’t mean that you have to be a failure in life to be a great musician, Clifford Brown and Horace Silver strike me as counter-examples. And clearly no one should engage in self-destructive behaviours just for the sake of it!

    Since this is my first comment on your blog I’d like to compliment you on it, I enjoy reading it (although it’s more for the music, less for the recording details, since I’m not that of an audiophile, although I collect records)

    • Hi, all sincerely-held points of view welcome here Philipp. I throw my view in, people come back with their take, often I learn something, maybe others do too. Thank you for weighing in on what I think is a quite important issue.

  3. An interesting discussion. I’ll just add that ever since reading Ian Carr’s marvellous biography of Miles I have always imagined the following speech bubbles on that sleeve photograph. Miles: Jesus, man, I’ll never understand women. Frances: What that motherfucker don’t know is that I just put four bullet holes in his Ferarri.

    Because. Miles did have a metallic blue Ferarri with bullet holes. He claimed (variously) that it was a music promoter he’d had to hustle for payment, or the mob. Carr says it was equally (and possibly more) likely that it was Frances, enraged yet again by Miles’s womanising.

    In either case, you can take your pick, but I never see that sleeve picture without thinking of that story. and of course, it’s a marvellous, timelessly modern record. The music crackles as if somehow, presciently, it knows that in just months it will have electricity coursing through its veins. Somehow – and I mean this in a good way – the essential landscape of electric period Miles are there: it is just waiting to be plugged in.

    • Good story, Alun, duly assimilated. Puts me in mind of a Jules Feiffer strip of about the same period, a time when anyone who was anyone in NY had their own shrink.

      Man: Tell me, what do you want?

      Woman: I want you to know what I want without my having to tell you!

      Someone quoted Frances Taylor that she left Miles running (for her life), and not for the first time.

  4. astonishing readers’ poll 1954: Harry James, Louis Armstrong, Bobby Hackett, Ruby Braff, Ralph Marterie, Buck Clayton, Jimmy McPartland and Charlie Spivak are all pre-bop trumpeters, mostly white: their music was dead in 1954. many are white west coasters, Baker, Rogers, Ferguson, Candoli bros, Fagerquist, Collins and Elliott. some are unknown or forgotten. at last: Dizzy, second, Roy fourth, Miles ninth, Brownie eleventh…Thad Jones 28th, just noticed they were all black.
    in an almost pre hard-bop era these were Down Beat readers’ preferences. unfortunately critics’ poll is unavailable yet.
    if I had to choose among these 30 trumpeters, dealing with 1954, I’ll say:
    Brownie, Davis, Jones, Dizzy, Chet, Roy: I’m a white dermatologist, so I’m used to look at skins: one white only.

    • It’s sadly not surprising. ABC Paramount was able to offer Coltrane a reasonable contract for its Impulse subsidiary only because it was selling hundreds of thousands of Paul Anka records. Citizen Kane (and The Maltese Falcon) lost Best Picture to How Green Was My Valley. When an artistic movement is taking place, not many people necessarily realize it at the time, and the cutting edge is not defined by the masses; they are always a decade behind.

      I agree with your 1954 rankings: Brownie is no. 1 with a bullet for me.

      • I’d say Clifford Brown with a bullet too. Further into the Fifties Booker Little would get my vote in a poll over Lee Morgan, Freddie Hubbard, or any of the trumpeters who were anointed as “new Brownies.” My favorite Booker LP of his four propers is the Time. The recording is immaculate – that appropriately lauded Series 2000 – and as his is the only horn, so you really hear him to best advantage. His compositions are so precise, almost a chamber music quality, but with so much warmth and no studied character. There is a beauty on the Time that expresses such sadness and yet transcends it. One of the great late night listens. And unlike Baker and Davis (I like the idea of not calling them by first names – though I sometimes do) Booker Little didn’t beat up women. Adding that to the mix seems to make his music more romantic and besides that… Booker (first name – yeah!) was also a cooker!!

          • dotter – When I think about it I need a doctor. Heartache, headache all at once.
            By the Seventies, I sure can’t imagine either of them getting into Fusion. Ouch! Where are my pills?

    • Dottore, l would like to contradict. Firstly, Armstrong’s music wasn’t dead by 1954, because some of his greatest small group work for Decca was still to be recorded. And secondly, let us not forget that the music we are favouring here (i.e. the 1955-1965 modern jazz era) has itself become a thing of the past, even more “dead” today than Armstrong’s music could ever have been. Miles used to admonish his band members, “Don’t you let me hear you play that be-bop shit again!” – and that was forty years ago!
      Looking at the 2014 annual Down Beat readers poll, what I am seeing is the usual suspects: Wynton Marsalis, Wayne Shorter, Diane Krall… no more “astonishing” than your 1954 results.
      And still: What a joy it is to listen to those old Prestige, Blue Note and Contemporary records! These guys were brand new and progressive at least in their own day. (So was Louis Armstrong, by the way. Wynton Marsalis never was, nor was Ms Krall.)
      So whenever we talk about “jazz”, the question is: What jazz?

      • I knew I could annoy someone with my bad tongue.
        Armstrong: I think his best contribution to our music came in the 20’s with Hot Five and Hot Seven. later production is considered very far from the first one, in terms of innovation, but I’m no expert.
        true that today Hard Bop is dead, as well as Free: both were dead in late 70’s.
        I’m convinced that a NEW way is yet to be seen.
        this is strange enough for a music that’s improvised.
        how is it possible that a new Bird or a new Davis or Trane hasn’t shown up yet?
        Jazz developed by decades: 20’s, 30’s, 40’s, 50’s and 60’s.
        and after?
        there are a lot of young musicians around. maybe their fault is that all have studied Jazz, and this did not happen in the past.
        is this the reason why we haven’t (and can’t have) a new direction?
        what is jazz: the only original American Art, not derived from European expressions.
        created by Afro-Americans AND white-Americans, our heroes.

        • Dottore, I think no one has ever felt annoyed by any of your contributions, on the contrary. It’s experts like you that add spice and spirit to this marvellous jazz site.

          You’re right: Armstrong’s most innovative period was in the 1920’s, but apart from Earl Hines and one or two others he didn’t have the right musicians to accompany him, and jazz took a long, long time to follow his genius, both rhythmically and in terms of improvisation. That’s why I believe that his best small group recordings are found between 1954 and 1957, with either Edmond Hall or Barney Bigard on clarinet and, most important, the fabulous Barrett Deems on drums. Some of the music found in the “Musical Autobiography” collection is beyond category (Wild Man Blues, Weary Blues, Mahogany Hall Stomp, Cornet Chop Suey etc.etc.). It’s very different from Armstrong’s live appearances in the fifties, which were less satisfying at times.

          You are putting your finger on the dilemma of contemporary jazz, which – perfect as it may be – rarely touches me the way it used to. It may be my own fault – I don’t know. There are more women in jazz than before, which I appreciate, but at the same time I see an increase in what I call “blonde” jazz, which I hate. Pop musicians without any jazz relevance are increasingly being presented at jazz festivals, and so forth.

          All I can say is: I prefer certain kinds of jazz, mostly instrumental, and very much in the vein of what is being discussed on this blog.

          • Good Heavens! An EL comment in which I agree with almost every word! Trebles all round!

            I must tread delicately here but the description “blonde jazz” seems to hit the spot. Setting aside accusations of misogyny, the new releases shelf in the store jazz section has so many less than essential work, you despair: jazz-lite, on CD/Download.

            The ruthless process of natural selection that was 40’s and ’50s jazz ensured only the best survived, of which we are the grateful recipients. Difficult lives in difficult times, competitive selection of talent, acoustic instruments moving air , tube technology, the conditions are no longer present to produce great music or great artists. Luckily, we have the recorded legacy.

            Herbie Hancock and Chick Corea are celebrity touring together right now, but having seen both recently, I can’t recommend them. If new talent doesn’t cut it, old talent doesn’t either.

            Feel free to disagree.

          • Interesting that you consider any type of jazz as “dead’, Dottore. Rather, compare it with classical music, not popular. Is the music of Bach dead? Beethoven? Ravel? Then why is the music of Satchmo dead? Or Clayton or Eldridge? If we listen to it can it possibly be dead?

            • my concept of “dead music” is strictly bound with the end of a given period of development. talking about Jazz any period had a beginning and an end. Dixieland or Hot Jazz in the 20’s, Swing in the 30’s, Be-Bop in the 40’s, Cool and Hard Bop in the 50’s, Free in the 60’s. all these were different waves, one after he other, one different from each other, a sort of musical development.
              the same happened in Classical, but not in decades as Jazz, here we deal with centuries: Baroque, Romance, Contemporary to be brief.
              Miles Davis embodies the foretype of the evolving musician: as EL has cited: “Don’t you let me hear you play that be-bop shit again!”. most audiences who followed Davis’ paths since the 40’s were lost with Bitches Brew, new generations were captured instead. at the end of his life he was convinced to play his old music once again (Montreux) but he wasn’t happy. all the musicians you cite had their times to express and produced great innovations, but only in those times. Marsalis is NOT an innovator and he’s not loved here: he is a sort of keeper of the tradition, a museum guardian. we all will never stop listening and loving our heroes in the times they were innovators or iconoclastic. for example, Ornette Coleman: compare his 60’s music (I love) with his last years (I don’t).
              no great musician will ever die: the styles will, and are dead.
              anyone (someone) could re-paint an old masterpiece today: which value? none
              anyone (!!) could re-play the famous alto break: which value? none
              any age had its representative artists: Art evolution doesn’t stop. what I can’t see yet, is something new in jazz, and I’m not alone. maybe it’s not possible to go further, but it’s useless to play as Marsalis does. we have an enormous documentation of Jazz evolution but nowadays this evolution is dead.
              I DO listen to all the musicians you cite: they, as our Jazz heroes are dead.
              their great music ain’t.

              • Just one little remark, Dottore. I think the main difference between classical music and jazz is not in their respective speed of development or change of styles (centuries versus decades) but in the way they are passed on to posterity. Classical music is written down in scores, which are then “revived” by conductors and orchestras in different, but equally meaningful ways. The only “scores” of improvised music are the sound recordings, as it were. It’s nice to have “repertory” bands play original arrangements from the past, live, in hi-fi stereo, but that is not what jazz is all about. To use your words, it’s no use trying to re-paint an old masterpiece.

                Regarding the future evolution of jazz, I am just as skeptical as you are – but we might both be wrong. One thing is for sure: You can listen to Mozart’s music in a concert hall today, but there is no way to listen to Charlie Parker’s music other than via his recordings. (I’m just repeating what you said about that famous alto break.)

              • I could not agree with you more. There is a time (period) for everything. Once the moment (and momentum) are gone, there is nothing anymore, just the memory and history.. I prefer the music in its heydays, listen and re-listen to it in its recorded form, rather than listen to re-dos, revivals, tributes to and you name it.
                We may very well conclude that jazz is dead. a has been, but for us to dig in its original form thanks to recordings which have very much contributed to establish this form of art.

                • to end this interesting discussion, please listen to the last seconds of this track, in Eric Dolphy’s own voice. that’s the true expression of my thoughts.
                  “when you hear music, after it’s over, it’s gone in the air: you can never capture it again”.

        • Hi Dott, I just want to pick up on the point you make about jazz being an African-American music uninflected by European expressions… Hmm, not quite, I don’t think. Ellington, Mingus, Dolphy, Herbie Nichols – to name just the first four that come to mind – were all influenced by European classical music and 20th century avant-garde.

          What I do think is true, however, is that jazz as it is currently developing (or stagnating, I suppose some might say – it depends on one’s views) is more influenced by classical, modern and avant-garde European music than it is by Africsn-American traditions. And this is probably especially true of free jazz and free improv, and let’s not forget the ‘house style’ of labels such as ECM, which have spent thirty-plus years fusing a specifically Northern European aesthetic of classical/contemporary music and jazz – which I entirely acknowledge to many simply isn’t jazz. Nonetheless I do think ECM deserves a place in the discussion about where jazz is headed (or has ended up)….

          Anyway, inspired by LJC’s post my Saturday morning listening right now is ESP on a marvellous 2013 all tube/all analogue remaster by Bernie Grundman on Impex, and I have to say it sounds better than any other version I have ever owned. It arguably isn’t really morning music, but we’ll let that pass….

  5. chet baker, to me, always played the ‘pretty boy’ role a little too hard for my taste. turns me off of his music. this was a fine track, though. i will keep an eye out for it.

    • Gregory, if you have any doubts about the talent of Chet Baker, may I suggest that you pick up a copy of “Concierto”. His solo is fantastic.

  6. This Chet Baker album was unknown to me, regretfully. Very fine music, although the effort to emulate the Miles Davis group is becoming a bit too obvious here. Mel Lewis, of all people, playing like Tony!! Anyway, they’re doing much better than those “Miles minus Miles” groups (including the original lineup but headed by Freddie Hubbard or Wynton Marsalis) that used to plague jazz festivals worldwide at that time. The sixties quintet was a one-of-its-kind phenomenon that could never be duplicated.

    • Oh – and it was 1965, not 1963, LJC. Not worth mentioning, in fact, because you say quite correctly that it was “almost a year before the defining Plugged Nickel session”.

      • Yup, correct call, 1965, not 1963, I miss-wrote the date in some places, so twelve years between the two recordings. I’ll stand by the year gap between ESP (January 1965) and Plugged Nickel (December 1965). Strictly, it’s eleven months but I’m “rounding up”.

  7. ‘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.’ Classic.

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