Chet Baker / Mike Melillo

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Symphonically Review

by Ken Dryden

Chet Baker is accompanied by Mike Melillo's quartet and a full orchestra in this 1985 concert. Melillo wrote new arrangements of several standards during a six-week period prior to the performances, keeping them in the original key since Baker neither read music nor made a habit of showing up for rehearsals; in fact, the first time Baker played with the orchestra was opening night. The Orchestra Filamonica Marchigiana are utilized deftly by Melillo to provide background for Baker's mostly strong trumpet solos, especially in the extended treatments of "Laura" and "Yesterdays." Melillo also contributes an original, "This Thing by Starlight" (a reworking of the chord changes to Cole Porter's "What Is This Thing Called Love"), and the two musicians are featured as a duo in an impromptu encore of "My Foolish Heart," featuring Baker's effective though fragile vocals. Although this CD isn't a good starting point for someone not very familiar with Chet Baker's music, it still ranks as one of the better efforts among the dozens of recordings made during the trumpeter's final years.

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