Music Reviews
Chet Baker/Jack Sheldon

Chet Baker/Jack Sheldon

In Perfect Harmony: The Lost Album 

Jazz Detective

The story behind this lost album is really quite fascinating. In 1972, Jack Sheldon was flying high as the bandleader and comic side kick on Merv Griffin’s talk show. Chet Baker, on the other hand, was at a low point in his life. In 1966, he was beaten up after a show in Sausalito, California. The beating left him with a smashed mouth and broken teeth, which led to him having to get dentures. Chet had to totally relearn how to play the horn with his new teeth and was suffering from a severe lack of confidence in his playing.

In Perfect Harmony came about when Jack Sheldon and his friend Jack Marshall convened this low-key session to get Baker back into the studio. The pitch to Baker was that by splitting the session with Sheldon, he would’t be carrying the full weight of the album. As an added incentive, the band were all friends of Sheldon and Baker, and recorded at an out-of-the-way studio in Newport Beach owned by Marshall.

When the album was finished, Jack Marshall shopped the tapes to various record labels, but died of a sudden heart attack before anything was finalized. The master tapes were filed away in Marshall’s garage for 50 years. Jack’s son, the film producer Frank Marshall, contacted Zev Feldman about the recording, and now it’s finally being released on the Jazz Detective label.

The record itself is a rather low-key collection of standards and show tunes. Both Sheldon and Baker are singers and trumpet players with markedly different styles. This is laid out on the opening track, “This Can’t Be Love.” Sheldon takes the first pass with a brash delivery. Baker then takes the closing verse with his whispery, dreamy delivery. Likewise, the two have different approaches to the trumpet, Sheldon has an aggressive attack, while Baker has a cool, Miles Davis-inspired tone. You can hear the differences clearly when both men are playing together on the end of “Too Blue.”

Baker sounds shy on “But Not For Me,” with his vocals half mumbled. It fits the song’s them of unrequited love, though. In contrast, Jack Sheldon positively swaggers on “I Cried For You.” The swagger fits a song talking smack about an ex-girlfriend.

Would In Perfect Harmony have been Chet Baker’s comeback vehicle? We’ll never know. Two years after he recorded this record, Baker stepped out on his own to release the well received She Was Too Good For Me, and relaunched his career. The process of making this album with his good friends must have given him a boost in confidence that helped make the comeback possible.

This is a special Record Store Day release.

In Perfect Harmony: The Lost Album


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