Music Reviews
Chet Baker

Chet Baker

Blue Room: The 1979 VARA Studio Sessions in Holland

Jazz Detective

Jazz Detective is a new record label dedicated to scouring the archives for previously unreleased performances. Their initial release was an extensive set of Ahmad Jamal shows recorded in Seattle, Washington, between 1963 and 1966. Their second release is a set of Chet Baker performances for Dutch radio in 1979, recorded at Vara Studios in Hilversum for the radio program Nine O’clock Jazz. These initial releases point to a treasure trove of previously unreleased material from jazz greats.

Chet Baker was an icon of Cool Jazz. He had movie-star looks (he turned down a contract with a movie studio), a fluid, relaxed tone on his trumpet, and an evocative singing voice. Elvis Costello got Baker to play on his tune “Shipbuilding” and patterned his Almost Blue record around his admiration of Baker. Baker had hot and cold streaks in his career. Serving time in prison on drug charges certainly didn’t help, but his career had been on an upswing when he died after falling out of a hotel window in Amsterdam.

The 1979 VARA Studio Sessions in Holland catch Baker in good form backed up by sympathetic European musicians. The April 10 session features pianist Phil Markowitz, bassist Jean-Louis Rassinfosse, and drummer Charles Rice. The November 9 session features pianist Frans Elsen, bassist Victor Kaihatu, and drummer Eric Ineke. Markowitz and Elsen really shine trading solos with Baker.

If his career had taken a different turn, I could see Chet Baker being the film noir Elvis Presley. When I think of that sort of vibe, a dark and smoky, soul-caressing sound, it’s Baker that comes to mind. Hearing him sing, you realize just how many vocalists he’s influenced over the years.

If you haven’t really checked out Chet Baker, Blue Room is a good place to start.

Blue Room: The 1979 VARA Studio Sessions in Holland


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