Chet Baker Quartet Featuring Russ Freeman (1998) is a perfect studio companion to the Mosaic Records set Complete Pacific Jazz Live Recordings of Chet Baker With Russ Freeman (1988). As was the custom for jazz platters of the time, both Baker and Freeman are joined by a different combo on each date. The luminaries include Bobby Whitlock (bass), Joe Mondragon (bass), Bobby White (bass), Larry Bunker (drums) and Shelly Manne (drums) from sessions held circa July and October of 1953. The 25 selections here provide copious evidence of Baker's uncanny artistry as he develops a dark, yet lyrical, interpretive approach. Immediately evident is the thoughtful synergy between Baker and the comparatively understated Freeman, whose comps help link the respective solos. In several notable instances, such as the nonchalant "Isn't It Romantic" or the limber syncopation of "Maid in Mexico," Freeman establishes the melody, rather than simply being relegated to the rhythm section. Additional diverse examples can be heard ranging from a sublime reading of "Imagination" to the upbeat and agile "All the Things You Are" -- which commences in progress. These tunes would seed Baker's back catalog of material, becoming staples during his 30-plus-year repertoire. One facet to Chet Baker Quartet Featuring Russ Freeman that will be of considerable interest to collectors and hardcore enthusiasts are both the 10" EP and the 12" LP takes of "Long Ago and Far Away," "No Ties," "The Thrill Is Gone," "Moon Love" and the 78 rpm and long-player version(s) of "Winter Wonderland."While these renderings have been previously issued, this CD marks the first time that they are presented on a single volume. Among other stellar (if not definitive) inclusions are Freeman's "Russ Job," "Bea's Flat" and the sole Baker vocal on "I Fall in Love Too Easily."
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AllMusic Review by Lindsay Planer