This 1988 concert turned out to be Chet Baker's swan song, because he died just two weeks after this performance, after a still-unexplained fall from a hotel balcony. Baker is alternately heard with either the NDR Big Band, the Radio Orchestra Hannover, or a small group, sticking mostly to standards and classic jazz compositions. Baker, who could be very inconsistent during the period after his teeth were knocked out in a brawl, is in top form throughout this evening. Baker's understated, haunting playing of "All Blues" has a special poignancy. He opens the evening with "My Funny Valentine" backed solely by guitar, with a delayed entrance by pianist Walter Norris (with whom he last played three decades earlier) and the 43-piece orchestra; his vocals quaver a bit but are quite sincere. Baker seems energized by the snappy chart of "Well, You Needn't," which features another old friend from his West Coast days, alto saxophonist Herb Geller. The leader is joined by a four-piece rhythm section anchored by Norris for an easygoing jaunt through Dave Brubeck's "In Your Own Sweet Way." The big band is again on-hand for the richly textured arrangement of John Lewis' "Django," with Baker making every note count. Baker basks in the upbeat return visit to "Look for the Silver Lining," which he first recorded during his heyday with Pacific Jazz.
His vocals take on a special meaning in the melancholy ballad "I Get Along Without You Very Well." Geller and Norris are perfect foils for the trumpeter in the rapid-fire rendition of George Shearing's "Conception." Geller and Baker mix it up in the inspired workout of "Sippin' at Bells." To wrap the show, Baker reprises "My Funny Valentine," again playing trumpet then singing, with Norris and bassist Lucas Lindholm as his sole accompanists. Originally issued on two separate discs by Enja in 1988, this reissue combines both volumes in one very affordable set. This concert is definitely one of the best recordings of the last decade of Chet Baker's career; in any case, it should be considered an essential purchase.
|All Blues / Miles Davis||Chet Baker||5:54|
|My Funny Valentine / Lorenz Hart / Richard Rodgers||Chet Baker||9:34|
|Well You Needn't / Thelonious Monk||Chet Baker||6:20|
|Summertime / George Gershwin / Ira Gershwin / DuBose Heyward||Chet Baker||5:13|
|In Your Own Sweet Way / Dave Brubeck||Chet Baker||9:23|
|Django / John Lewis||Chet Baker||5:54|
|I Fall in Love Too Easily / Sammy Cahn / Jule Styne||Chet Baker||7:02|