Chet Baker – Chet Baker and Crew – Pacific Jazz 82671/ Pure Pleasure Analogue PPAN PJ1224 – Mono 180 gm vinyl – 1956 (2-LPs) ****:
[Chet Baker, trumpet and vocal; Phil Urso, tenor sax; Bobby Timmons, piano; Jimmy Bond, bass; Peter Littman, drums. with Bill Loughbrough, chromatic tympani on “To Mickey’s Memory” and “Pawnee Junction”]
Pure Pleasure Analogue, the audiophile LP company based in England has gone “all-in” with their issue of Chet Baker’s album, Chet Baker and Crew. They have expanded the original Pacific Jazz-issued album from its original eight songs to the full fourteen recordings made over three sessions in late July, 1956 at the Forum Theater in Los Angeles. (A 1993 CD issue matches this 2-LP set, but the LP issue’s acoustics far exceed those of the CD!)
Chet and his band had just returned from a triumphant tour of Europe. There were bittersweet feelings, however, as Baker’s close friend, the amazing young pianist Dick Twardzik, had died the previous October in Paris from a heroin overdose, an issue that also plagued Baker throughout his years. Nevertheless, Baker’s band retained bassist Jimmy Bond and drummer, Peter Littman. Added to the group was the brilliant pianist, Bobby Timmons, and cool toned tenor saxist, Phil Urso, with whom Baker matched well.
“To Mickey’s Memory” adds tympanist Bill Loughbrough, and his inclusion here changes the West Coast laid-back vibe to one with Caribbean overtones, and seems to inspire Baker, as his solo here is much “hotter” than typical Chet. Bond’s bass is caught effectively by remastering engineers, Kevin Gray and Steve Hoffman. Their remastering of this set is first rate.
Urso’s solo on “Slightly Above Moderate” is moody and atmospheric in a mournful manner, aided by Timmon’s accents. Urso wrote, “Halema” for Chet’s wife at the time. It is a gorgeous ballad and Urso and Baker blend seamlessly. Urso was a perfect partner for Chet, as their softer “sweet” tones had much in common.
Al Cohn’s “Something for Liza” livens up the proceedings as Baker shares fours with drummer, Littman. Timmons, one of the best blues piano players of the ’50s and ’60s, shines on “Lucius Lu,” and Urso shows he can leave the cool school aside and play funky. “Worryin’ the Life Out of Me” is the best evidence of how Baker and Urso paired so well. Their light swing on this Miff Mole chestnut is the epitome of West Coast cool music that remains so popular today with Baker fans.
Loughbrough returns on the tympani again for his tune “Pawnee Junction,”
and his drum adds that little bit of extra percussion that kick starts the quintet. Its chromatic conga-like rhythm is a nice touch. The one Chet Baker vocal on this 2 LP set is found on Gerry Mulligan’s, “Line for Lyons.” Chet’s inimitable soft voice added to his matinee idol looks. This appeal made him both Metronome and Downbeat’s No. 1 trumpeter, much to the disgust of East Coast fans of Miles Davis..
Chet Baker and Crew comes highly recommended for audiophiles, fans of early period Baker, and those – like me – that have a special place in our jazz hearts for the West Coast jazz scene that came and went from the early ’50s till the mid ’60s, when the LA jazz scene briefly rivaled the Big Apple for jazz supremacy.
Side 1: To Mickey’s Memory, Slightly Above Moderate, Halema, Revelation
Side 2: Something for Liza, Lucius Lu, Worrying the Life Out of Me,
Side 3: To Mickey’s Memory (alt take), Jumpin’ Off a Clef, Chippyin’
Side 4: Pawnee Junction, Music to Dance By, Line for Lyons
— Jeff Krow