Chet Baker

Chet Baker Big Band

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Releasing an entire album under the moniker Chet Baker Big Band is a bit of a misnomer, as only the first four sides actually incorporate an 11-person configuration. The remaining tracks from the long-player feature a slightly smaller nonet configuration. Among the luminaries joining Baker (trumpet) and participating in the big-band arrangements are Art Pepper (alto sax), Bud Shank (alto sax), Phil Urso (tenor sax), and Bobby Timmons (piano). The critical argument proposing that Baker's style is more akin to bop -- and the residual post-bop -- than the West Coast cool that he is often connected with gets tremendous validation throughout not only the four big-band tracks, but also the remainder of the album. The band bops with tremendous verve behind Baker's unmistakable leads. Jimmy Heath's ultrahip arrangements -- especially of "Tenderly" and "A Foggy Day" -- allow the soloists to improvise fluidly from within the context of the larger unit. The Pierre Michelot composition "Mythe" is notable for some outstanding soloing from Baker and Timmons. It is a shame that poor master tape editing -- a motif that haunts many Dick Bock productions -- mars the overall aesthetic. Of the nonet sides, the band really jumps and responds best to the original compositions such as Phil Urso's "Phil's Blues" and "V-Line." The horn blend on these recordings is likewise striking.

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