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BUD SHANK AND CHET BAKER

California Dreamin'

Elemental Music 88519

1. California Dreamin'

2. Imprevu

3. Listen People

4. What The World Needs Now Is Love

5. In Times Like These

6. Norwegian Wood

7. Woman

8. Monday, Monday

9. Daydream

10. Gotta Go

11. The End Of The World

12. Husbands And Wives

Bud Shank - Alto sax, flute

Chet Baker - Flugelhorn

Unidentified orchestra arranged and conducted by Bob Florence

This album was originally released by World Pacific Jazz, back in 1966. It brought together two influential figures in the West Coast jazz movement in the United States. Bud Shank was equally proficient and lucid on the alto sax and the flute. Known particularly for the creative combination of Californian 'cool school' jazz with Brazilian music that he and guitarist Laurindo Almeida recorded during the 1950s, he was more versatile than that simple description would suggest and featured over time to good effect in a wide variety of contexts and with a diverse company of partners and bands. If fiery playing was required, Bud could deliver with the best, particularly in his later years. Chet Baker made an impact at an early age, especially in his recordings with Gerry Mulligan, his subsequent work with Russ Freeman and his vocal albums. Here, he plays flugelhorn to the manner born. The duo are accompanied by an orchestra conducted by the pianist and composer Bob Florence who also contributed the arrangements. The personnel of the orchestra (which includes a vocal chorus) are not listed but Florence was noted for the quality of his sidemen when he assembled a band for a recording session or live performance.

The music on the album consists mostly of contemporary popular songs of that era. Some of them have stood the test of time better than others. In my view the arrangements are, on occasions, rather pedestrian and the vocal chorus can be cloying at times. Nevertheless, few will want to argue about the calibre of Shank and Baker. The interplay between them is strikingly good, as on Imprevu and Woman. If Chet at his most bittersweet is to your taste then listen to Gotta Go. Bud Shank's flute on California Dreamin' is a demonstration of how authentic a jazz instrument it can be, in the right hands. Incidentally, this particular piece sounds like a candidate for the soundtrack of a spaghetti western (maybe it's the vocal chorus!). Even with inferior material, as on Listen People, Shank on alto cannot fail to be interesting while Chet on flugelhorn is the epitome of relaxed swing. Daydream is probably the most jazz-oriented track but I also liked an invigorating take on Norwegian Wood and Shank's moody performance along with Baker's tender riposte on What The World Needs Now Is Love.

I guess it would be possible to consign this disc to the categories of 'jazz-lite' or of music for background listening. However, the musicianship and beauty of much of the playing will make fans of either or both of the principals glad it has been reissued.

James Poore



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