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Reviewers: Tony Augarde [Editor], Steve Arloff, Nick Barnard, Pierre Giroux, Don Mather, James Poore, Glyn Pursglove, George Stacy, Bert Thompson, Sam Webster, Jonathan Woolf



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BORN TO BE BLUE : MUSIC FROM THE MOTION PICTURE

Rhino 081227 947 14 9

 

 

 

 

1. My Funny Valentine

2. Over The Rainbow

3. Let's Get Lost

4. Ko-opt

5. Could Have Been

6. I've Never Been In Love Before

7. Once Away

8. Blue Room

9. Haitian Fight Song

10. Bowling Abbey Boogie

11. Go Down Sunshine

12. Tequila Earworm

13. A Small Hotel

14. Born To Be Blue

Ethan Hawke - Vocals (tracks 1, 6)

David Braid - Piano, bandleader

Kevin Turcotte - Trumpet

Steve Wallace - Bass

Terry Clarke - Drums

Mike Murley - Saxophone (tracks 4, 8)

Kelsley Grant - Trombone (track 12)

Ted Quinlan - Guitar (track 12)

Prague Epoque Orchestra - Strings (tracks 5, 7)

Soon after a Miles Davis biopic there comes a movie focussing on Chet Baker, with an emphasis on a particular phase of Chet's life i.e. his post 1967 comeback. Bruce Weber's documentary Let's Get Lost (1988) had previously covered the territory and much more. Still, a new attempt at conveying the essence of this highly gifted but self destructive figure is overdue. In the film the actor Ethan Hawke plays Chet and, on two of the tracks on this sound track album, sings. The music overall is the work of Canadian composer, arranger and musician, David Braid. Kevin Turcotte, part of Braid's Toronto-based jazz ensemble, takes on the responsibility for reflecting Chet's sparse, almost minimalist, trumpet style. In addition to Braid's specially composed pieces and half a dozen standards associated with Chet, there are two tracks which draw on other sources to convey atmosphere. One is Charles Mingus's rumbustious Haitian Fight Song, taken from a 1957 Atlantic recording by the great bassist and band leader. The other is by the blues and spiritual singer, Odetta (Go Down Sunshine) which was recorded by that artiste on Riverside Records in the 1960s.

Among Braid's compositions, the title track is a stand-out. Born To Be Blue is atmospheric, capturing the mood suggested by the title, with Turcotte melancholy and expressive and some fine piano from Braid himself. I liked, too, Tequila Earworm which sounds as if it might have been written for Herb Alpert and is correspondingly catchy. It is, however, very brief, as is Ko-opt, where trumpet and sax collaborate in a piece reminiscent of the Charlie Parker favourite, Salt Peanuts. Incidentally, it seems that the emphasis is to play (and sing) in the spirit of Chet Baker rather attempt a slavish imitation - a wise choice in my opinion. On My Funny Valentine, Turcotte plays with appropriate tenderness while, although Ethan Hawke lacks the purity of Chet's singing, he captures that almost whispering quality of his delivery. Hawke is slightly off-key on I've Never Been In Love Before but Turcotte does full justice to a lovely show tune. Among the standards, Blue Room is possibly the pick, bringing together Mike Murley on tenor sax and Turcotte's trumpet to produce a number ideal for late night listening. The aforementionedHaitian Fight Song blows up the proverbial storm and presents a contrast to the ballad oriented style of much of the rest of the material, though Bowling Alley Boogie is lively enough. On tracks such as Once Away, David Blain's nuanced piano playing can be heard to good effect.

Apart from the Mingus number, which clocks in at over twelve minutes, most of the music is brief but that's the nature of film music, as well as a reflection of the duration of songs in Chet's heyday. This album is both accessible and listenable and credit for that is due to the quality of musicianship shown. I'm looking forward to seeing the film soon and appreciating more fully how the music works in the context of the movie.

James Poore





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