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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 2

Elemental Music 88521

  1. There's A Small Hotel

  2. I'll Remember April

  3. These Foolish Things

  4. Autumn In New York

  5. Summertime

  6. You Go To My Head

  7. Tenderly

  8. Lover Man

    Chet Baker - Trumpet

    Gérard Gustin - Piano

    Jimmy Bond - Bass

    Bert Dahlander - Drums

    This recording, which took place in Paris on October 24 1955, is set against the sombre background of the sudden death, due to a heroin overdose, of the Quartet's pianist Dick Twardzik, only three days before. Gérard Gustin, at that time an up-and-coming young French pianist, replaced Twardzik. The drummer Peter Littman, who had suffered the trauma of discovering Twardzik's body, also missed this session. The Swedish drummer Bert Dahlander took his place. The wonder of it was that Chet Baker and Jimmy Bond were able to participate, in the circumstances, and furthermore to give such outstanding performances. The disc is enhanced by an inspired selection of material, comprising eight memorable standards from the Great American Songbook.

    There's A Small Hotel bounces along cheerfully, with inventive improvisation from Baker and neat cameos from Gustin and Bond. On I'll Remember April Chet leads the charge with his usual facility but the group as a whole gel together effectively. There's an accomplished solo from Gustin. A moody These Foolish Things features deft bass/piano interplay. Autumn In New York does full justice to a lovely tune. There is languid, beautiful playing from Baker and delicate support from Gustin. If it's possible to combine coolness with heart, Chet manages it on Summertime. Jimmy Bond is at his best here. On the romantic ballad You Go To My Head (the best track, for my money), the group excel, showing how measured improvisation can yet be totally creative. Tenderly takes us on a sentimental journey of introspective reverie, but never loses touch with the melody. Lover Man is, of course, one of the most recorded jazz classics. Baker is content to simply demonstrate once more his penchant for gentle, ruminative music. Grubin, meanwhile, confirms just how gifted he is with yet another magical performance.

    All in all, this is bewitching music which still sounds contemporary after all these years. The liner notes make the claim that the Barclay recordings, of which this was a part, represented a watershed for Chet Baker. They were his only studio recordings for fifteen months, until he returned to the States in June 1956. After this, it is argued, a long, slow decline set in, due to Baker's increasing problems with drugs. We are told “These weeks leading up to the Paris recordings, eventful as they might have seemed at the time, were really the calm before a life-long storm.” The facts of Chet's life are well-known. It is good to have this reissue to remind us of how he sounded while still very near the peak of his powers.

    James Poore



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