This is the second of three volumes covering the 1953-1954 quartet led by Chet Baker (trumpet). The contents of this single disc are split evenly between a short, five-song set from the Santa Cruz Civic Auditorium in July of 1954 and the first 25 (give or take a few) minutes of an August 1954 performance at the infamous Tiffany Club in Los Angeles -- the balance of which is available on Quartet Live, Vol. 3: My Old Flame. Joining Baker are Russ Freeman (piano), Carson Smith (bass), and Bob Neel (drums). Their rich and seemingly incidental interaction epitomizes the distinctly carefree style associated with the West Coast cool subgenre of bebop jazz. The Civic Auditorium set sounds remarkable for a semi-professional open reel tape. Among the highlights of this first mini-set are the seminal chops exhibited on "Billie's Bounce" and a showstopping reading of Carson Smith's frenetic "Carson City Stage." Baker's solos on this number are of particular note, if for no other reason than the absolute and unfettered joyful abandon with which he weaves the main melody between tasty and well-placed contributions from Freeman and Smith. A jolting bass solo commences an intense "No Ties" and likewise launches the listener headlong into the four Tiffany Club selections. Although subdued, these recordings bristle with the unmistakable energy and vibrancy of Baker and company at their zenith. This reading of "Deep Purple" features gentle, behind-the-beat interplay and counter-melodies weaving in and out of solos from Baker and Smith. Unlike the Santa Cruz show, these tapes were slated for release in the fall of 1955. For reasons that remain opaque at best, the tapes were shelved and remained on the whole unissued until the 1986 Mosaic Records Complete Pacific Jazz Live Recordings of Chet Baker With Russ Freeman box set. Although the limited-edition sets -- available on both 12" vinyl and CD -- were quickly snatched up by collectors, the complete performances have been condensed to two 24-bit remastered volumes.
Share this page
AllMusic Review by Lindsay Planer