Chet Baker & Strings [LP]; Pure Pleasure 180 Gram Audiophile Virgin Vinyl

Chet Baker's sad story is one of legend. From talented teenager (even Italian movie producers looked at him as a leading man) making records with the very best west coast jazzers to an ignominious death falling from an Amsterdam hotel after a life of heroin addiction. 

Equally adept as singer or trumpeter, here we have Baker centre stage on the horn. And surrounded by the very best sidesmen.  

This is is such a tasteful record. It has its swing and bop moments, but it remains largely reflective. As you listen, remind yourself of Baker's turbulent life story. It's the antithesis to his playing. And singing on many other LPs. 

There are 12 tracks on the LP. I think the CD gives you some bonus tracks. But it's the LP where all the audiophile juice is. 

The Pure Pleasure 180 gram pressing is flawless. That said, some 1954 artifacts remain in the mix -- a little grain and boxiness from the nine string players. Interestingly, both solo saxes, Zoot's tenor and Bud Shank's alto sound solid. 

Baker is supported by a rock solid rhythm section in Russ Freeman on piano, Joe Mandragon, bass and the superb Shelly Manne on drums. Whether sliding along or adding punch when required, these three make up a stellar section. 

Arrangements courtesy of Shorty Rogers, Marty Paich and the ubiquitous Johnny Mandel. They're subtle, refined and showcase Baker's west coast, relaxed style. No zippy horn playing, lots of silk.   

And the silk reflects the repertoire. Standards like You Don't Know What Love Is, I'm Thru With Love and Love Walked In (you get the point?) unravel so naturally. No glaring head, no dizzying form, just plain, beautiful phrasing.  

Many audiophiles will have (or want) this wonderful record for their collections. Chet Baker does not put a foot wrong, and with the exception of a few string artifacts, which in no way impede the audiophile-quality sound, receives a superb recording. 

At USD$34.99, these LP reissues are not cheap. Worth it? Of course, we're audiophiles. And these LPs are records of the finest sound the 20th Century (and 21st) has to offer. If you see an original for a quarter in some bin somewhere, well now we're talking. 

Very highly recommended.  

 April 14, 1954

Recorded December 30-31, 1953 and February 20, 1954 Los Angeles, California

Length 36:47

Producer: Richard Bock

 SIDE A

1. YOU DON'T KNOW WHAT LOVE IS
2. I'M THRU WITH LOVE
3. LOVE WALKED IN
4. YOU BETTER GO NOW
5. I MARRIED AN ANGEL
6. LOVE

SIDE B

1. I LOVE YOU
2. WHAT A DIFF'RENCE A DAY MADE
3. WHY SHOULDN'T I?
4. A LITTLE DUET FOR ZOOT AND CHET
5. THE WIND
6. TRICKLEYDIDLIER

 Musicians:

  • Chet Baker (trumpet)
  • Zoot Sims (tenor saxophone)
  • Jack Montrose (tenor saxophone)
  • Bud Shank (alto saxophone)
  • Russ Freeman (piano)
  • Joe Mondragon (bass)
  • Shelly Manne (drums)

Product Code:SPCO-PUR-549

Label: Pure Pleasure

180 Gram Audiophile Virgin Vinyl LP

UPC: 5060149621264