Chet Baker / Piero Umiliani

Jazz on Film: Italian Movies

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Before delving into the music on this collection, it's important to offer a note of caution to Chet Baker fans: Italian Movies is not a really a compilation of the trumpeter's work, so much as a series of film scores by the great composer Piero Umiliani between 1958 and 1964 on which he is featured either as a soloist or as part of the orchestra. It might better have been marketed to Umiliani fans, but it's tough to fault label Moochin' About for a little creative license when repackaging a previous issue of this music that appeared on Liuto Records -- that one was co-billed to the pair. Other than on disc three -- where Baker doesn't get to solo until track nine in the score for 1962's Smog, yet is still featured for 20 minutes -- there is plenty of him to go around as he works amid his Italian contemporaries. Despite the period, one in which his drug addiction was particularly difficult to manage, his playing is taut, muscular, and inventive throughout. His solos bear the entire strength of his phrasing signature. Disc one contains the scores for 1959's Audace Colpo Dei Soliti Ignoti, 1958's I Soliti Ignoti, and Urlatorialla Sbarra (1960). The hard bop blues play an enormous part in all three. Baker's soloing is extremely expressive inside these charts. Highlights include "Motorizzazione," "Gassman Blues Pts. 1-2" [sic], and "Tema d'Amore." For those who saw Let's Get Lost, Bruce Weber's 1988 film on the trumpeter, "Arriverderci," the tune that plays during the end credits, is from Urlatori Alla Sbarra. It is included here at the end of disc one, with Baker singing amid Italian dialogue. Disc two is lighter fare musically, consisting entirely of the score for 1964's Intrigo a Los Angeles. Bossa was still a big part of the Italian scene and would be for a few years to come, as was loungy discotheque music. Baker's parts are nonetheless lovely in this decidedly non-jazz setting. Check his bluesy mute work on "Jazz Bar" and low-register blusters in "Pedinamento." Umiliani's score for Franco Rossi's Smog includes the added treat of dreamy vocals by Helen Merrill on "Dawn." On the first eight cues, Baker plays in a rather spirited ensemble whose charts swing with a Latin flair -- and quote briefly from "Tequila" in "California in the Summer." In addition to the music, there is a short liner essay by Umiliani about working with Baker. Italian Movies is handsomely packaged with iconic photos of Baker, includes full credits, and comes at a reasonable price.

Track Listing - Disc 2

Sample Title/Composer Performer Time
1 1:14
2 1:56
3 4:15
4 5:30
5 1:40
6 4:19
7 3:25
8 1:42
9 3:20
10 1:39
11 1:37
12 1:52
13 2:42
14 1:53
15 1:00
16 2:34
17 2:25
blue highlight denotes track pick