Chet Baker ‘Live in London Volume II’ 2CD (Ubuntu Music) 5/5

The Canteen near Covent Gardens in London was certainly a short-lived jazz club, but one that welcomed one of the all-time greats in trumpeter Chet Baker. Following up on the excellent first volume, this personal Sony TCS 3000 audio cassette recording from 1983, that has been beautifully cleaned up with digital technology, offers an intimate and priceless glimpse into the musical world of Chet Baker with extended takes on some of the classic American songbook, accompanied by an excellent British rhythm section comprising John Horler on piano, Jim Richardson on bass and Tony Mann on drums. With the benefit of time, we can now appreciate this timeless exploration of the standards and Baker is certainly in fine form, both on vocals and trumpet, with inventive soloing for the latter. That versatility is exemplified on a stunning nine and three-quarter minutes rendition of ‘My Ideal’, which starts with a piano solo intro before Chet takes over with a vocal delivery that is at once melodic and yet also reveals his own vulnerability before he then goes on to take a trumpet solo.

It is indeed the sound of the trumpet that takes the spotlight on a leisurely paced interpretation of Horace Silver’s composition, ‘Strollin’, with an extended solo on the horn. By contrast with most jazz musicians who tend to play ‘Stella by Starlight’, as a ballad, Baker prefers to opt for a more sprightly tempo and thus heads straight into a solo, while the deft brush work from Mann is accompanied by equally subtle piano comping from Horler. Ballards have always been a feature of Chet Baker’s repertoire and here, both ‘When I Fall in Love’ and ‘Broken Wing’ are treated delicately and tenderly with the trumpet caressing the melody. The fine evocative front cover black and white photo by jazz cameraman par excellence, David Sinclair, is accompanied by incisive inner sleeve notes from music writer and author of ‘The Man in the Green Shirt: Miles Davis’, Richard Williams.

Tim Stenhouse