Chet Baker & Strings (1953
Label: Timeless | MP3 cbr 320 kbps | Time: 36:38 | 83.9 MoGenre: Jazz, Vocal Jazz, Cool Jazz, West Coast Jazz
This release offers a unique glimpse of a young Chet Baker in a quintet setting, complemented by a nine-piece string section. Utilizing the uniquely modern arrangements of Johnny Mandel, Marty Paich, Jack Montrose, and Shorty Rogers, this interaction of "West Coast cool" with primordial elevator music 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 string arrangements provide the desired opulence sans the heavy-handed or syrupy residual effects. Perhaps most inspiring about this outing is the success with which Baker and crew are able to thrive in this environment, providing subtle insight into the quintet's ability to simultaneously adapt and explore. Chet Baker and Strings was recorded over three days in late 1953 and early 1954. Joining Baker (trumpet) on these sessions 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 string section, as well as 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 string arrangement swings 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. The 1998 CD reissue also 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," all of which make their debut on this release.