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Chet Baker & Strings

Chet Baker

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Album Review

This disc offers a glimpse of a young Chet Baker in a quintet setting complemented by a nine-piece string section. Utilizing the modern scores of Johnny Mandel, Marty Paich, Jack Montrose, and Shorty Rogers, this confab of the "West Coast cool" contingent escapes many — if not indeed all — of the potential sonic pitfalls such a marriage might suggest. In the truest sense of the word augmentation, the arrangements help to flesh out the desired opulence sans any heavy-handed or syrupy residual effects. What is particularly inspiring about the outing is the success with which Baker and crew are able to thrive, unleashing their subtle insights into the quintet's ability to simultaneously adapt and explore. Chet Baker & Strings was recorded over three days in late 1953 and early 1954. Joining Baker on trumpet are Jack "Zoot" Sims (tenor sax), Jack Montrose (tenor sax), Russ Freeman (piano), Joe Mondragon (bass), Shelly Manne (drums), and Clifford "Bud" Shank (alto sax), who steps in for Sims on the 1954 date. "Love Walked In" incorporates a trademark volley of interaction between Baker and Sims. "Love" contains what is arguably the most successful implementation of the added musicians and some stellar soloing by Freeman. In fact, his contributions to this particular recording rank among his finest with Baker and company. The same enthusiasm can likewise be applied to "A Little Duet for Zoot and Chet." Not only are Sims and Baker in top flight, but the violins, violas, and the like swing irresistibly as well. The easygoing and otherwise winding strings support the cool bop like a kite in a March breeze — light, airy, and conspicuous only in altitude. [A 1998 CD reissue of the project includes three alternate performances: "You Don't Know What Love Is," "You Better Go Now," and an incendiary "A Little Duet for Zoot and Chet."]

Customer Reviews

An essential piece of any Chet Baker collection

On the surface, this recording would seem like a "sell-out", a way to make a jazz artist reach the mainstream audience. However, this actually one of Baker's better early recordings for several reasons. First, the strings rarely get in the way. Second, Baker has some excellent jazzmen such as Manne, Freeman, Sims and Shank that keep things swinging. Also, the band steers clear of sappy ballads and syrupy arrangements.


Born: December 23, 1929 in Yale, OK

Genre: Jazz

Years Active: '50s, '60s, '70s, '80s

Chet Baker was a primary exponent of the West Coast school of cool jazz in the early and mid-'50s. As a trumpeter, he had a generally restrained, intimate playing style and he attracted attention beyond jazz for his photogenic...
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Chet Baker & Strings, Chet Baker
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