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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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CHET BAKER

Quartet Volume 1

Elemental Music 88520

 

  1. Rondette

  2. Piece Caprice

  3. Mid - Forte

  4. Re - Search

  5. Pomp

  6. Sad Walk

  7. Just Duo

  8. The Girl From Greenland

  9. Brash

    Chet Baker - Trumpet

    Dick Twardzik - Piano

    Jimmy Bond - Bass

    Peter Littman - Drums

    There is a particular sadness attached to this recording. In September 1955, Chet Baker set off from the USA with three other musicians for a projected four month tour of Europe. Russ Freeman, his pianist of choice, had made the decision not to go. Both of them, however, had been impressed by a young pianist named Dick Twardzik. For Chet, he was the obvious replacement for Freeman. Twardzik had only made one recording as a leader (with his trio) at this point but clearly had immense promise. This album was recorded in Paris on the eleventh and fourteenth of October 1955. It was to be Twardzik's last. By the twenty-first of that month, he was dead, the result of a heroin overdose, probably accidental. He was 24 years old and had made only six recorded performances.

    Released by Barclay Records originally, the disc received warm reviews at the time. Baker and Twardzik's fellow musicians were a 22 year old bass player, fresh from Juilliard, Jimmy Bond, and drummer Peter Littman, another youthful recruit who had previously played with Herb Pomeroy and Charlie Mariano. The music is low-key, late-night chamber jazz. The compositions are all, bar one, by Bob Zieff, a young composer of the time about whom Baker endorsed enthusiastically (these days, Zieff is a Jazz DJ). Several tracks catch the attention. Rondette, for instance, has Chet at his most impeccably lyrical, with Dick Twardzik offering hints of Monk, as Littman propels the whole piece along. Piece Caprice, meanwhile, is a work of gentle subtlety from Baker while Twardzik proves to be a quirky minimalist on piano. As pretty well everywhere on the disc, Jimmy Bond gives solid support, as indeed does Peter Littman. Pomp is sombre sounding, providing scope for Chet's probing trumpet and Twardzik's inventive solo. The Girl From Greenland is a Twardzik original and has a jaunty feel about it. Both the composer and Baker contribute expansive solos.

    The disc as a whole has been a privilege to review as well as a pleasure to hear. The only reservation I have is that a change of mood from time to time might have been helpful. There is, of course, the poignancy of knowing that Dick Twardzik's life was to come to an end prematurely in a matter of a few days and that a rare talent was lost to jazz in consequence. It is said that Chet Baker was deeply affected by the tragedy and carried that with him always. The trip to Europe that was scheduled to last four months turned out to be eight months away from home. I'm glad we have this reissue and the music on it, to remind us of a hopeful beginning which, sadly, was quickly to unwind.

    James Poore



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