Chet Baker: Stella by Starlight (Tokyo 1987)


Stella by Starlight


Chet Baker (trumpet)


Chet Baker in Tokyo (Evidence 22158)

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Chet Baker (trumpet), Harold Danko (piano), Hein Van Der Geyn (bass), John Engels (drums).

Composed by Victor Young


Recorded: Tokyo, June 14, 1987


Rating: 92/100 (learn more)

Some people will tell you Chet Baker never could do much on the trumpet. David Thomson, in one of the most wrongheaded reviews I have ever read, proclaimed "Baker, in my view, could not play jazz, and did not play it." Others will begrudgingly admit that Baker made some good records, but soon destroyed his talent with drugs and fast living. But here is a live recording made less than a year before Baker's death -- at a Tokyo date much prized by Baker-o-philes -- that finds the trumpeter improvising with unbridled creativity. Baker's preternatural ear always guided him to the right notes, the interesting phrases, the clever cadences. Here he takes an oblique pass at the melody, and then digs in deeper and deeper with each passing chorus. No trumpeter was better skilled at solving that age-old jazz problem: namely how to create new melodies for old chord changes. And this talent remained, even while Baker's good looks and health faded. Chet did not play jazz? Check out the record, and then you make the call

Reviewer: Ted Gioia

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