Chet Baker Ensemble collects all the tracks recorded by trumpeter Chet Baker and his group on a session for Pacific Jazz in late December of 1953. Having been released piecemeal on various albums over the years, this represents the first complete gathering of this material. Recorded less than two months before the legendary Chet Baker Sings sessions, these tracks showcase the young Baker as a hardcore jazz trumpeter before the public became overwhelmingly infatuated with his unique vocal abilities. Featuring first-rate "West Coast"-style arrangements by tenor saxophonist Jack Montrose -- who also composed many of the songs -- the septet seems to combine the jocular interplay of Baker's work with saxophonist Gerry Mulligan with the hip, swinging work popularized by the large ensembles of trumpeter Shorty Rogers. Besides Montrose, backing Baker here are saxophonists Herb Geller and Bob Gordon, bassist Joe Mondragon, drummer Shelly Manne, and pianist Russ Freeman. Rating alongside the best of Baker's catalog, Chet Baker Ensemble is a must-hear for both longtime fans and neophytes of the iconic trumpeter/vocalist's work.
AllMusic Review by Matt Collar