Prayer for the Newborn
My Funny Valentine
If I Should Lose You
Chet Baker (trumpet and vocals): Jon Eardley (flugelhorn): Bob Mover
(saxophones); Dennis Luxion (piano): Rocky Knauer (bass): Burkhard Ruckert
Recorded at the Salt Peanuts Club, Cologne, 23-24 May 1981
In the first half of 1981 Chet Baker toured France, Belgium, the
Netherlands, Austria and Germany. Some items have appeared over the years
on bootlegs, but this is the first official release of the performances
given at the Salt Peanuts Club in Cologne over two nights in May. For the
aficionado there is a twelve-page booklet with colour photographs of the
gigs, a helpful and revealing note from Dennis Luxion, the pianist on the
dates, and good quality sound.
What made the gigs even more interesting is the inclusion of the flugelhorn
player Jon Eardley who, fortunately for recorded posterity, was brought in
for just the Cologne gigs. In Paris Claudio Roditi took Eardley’s place.
The personnel listing above needs amending in one respect in that drummer
Burkhard Ruckert only appeared on the first night at the club; by the
second he was gone. Baker and drummers famously didn’t get along and I
think you can tell that he, and others like him, were too heavy for Baker,
too insistent. Like a pianist with a propulsive left hand with no need of a
bass player – because he is his own in-built bass - Baker fared best in a
lighter environment where his lyricism flourished unimpeded. You can hear
the plus-drums and minus-drums performances on these preserved tapes and
the latter are markedly superior.
The arrangements are generally spare but the dovetailing eloquence between
the two brass players is notable throughout, not least on the deft work on Prayer for the Newborn. Joining them in the front line is Bob
Mover who takes a fine solo on My Ideal where Baker’s typically
ethereal vocal reinforces the predominantly slow tempo of the majority of
these tracks. Ensemble is pretty tight on Lady Bird, whilst Resonant Emotion just about reaches mid-tempo, though with the
rhythm section not quite ideally forwardly balanced, a thought that may not
have discouraged Baker. His allusive solo on this track ends with blues
cadences as he hands over solo duties to Mover, who is on especially fine
form and sounds fully warmed up. Eardley too is fluent and controlled, as
is Luxion. This is assuredly one of the best tracks on the album.
is pure bop, straight ahead with fine unisons and solos; nice arrangement
too. It wouldn’t be Baker if there weren’t a performance of My Funny Valentine. There’s nothing startling about it this late
in the game but there are poetic fills by the players behind Baker, fully
supporting him and expanding the poetic radius of his musicianship. A shift
up-tempo comes with If I Should Lose You where bassist Rocky
Knauer’s quick reflexes are an asset and where Mover’s galvanic sax solo
earns Baker’s murmuring vocal approval. Eardley picks up Mover’s challenge
and there’s a freedom in the front line over the piano-and-bass rhythm that
is not always evident on the first night where the drums are present.
There’s a beautifully melancholy and rich toned performance ofRound Midnight and to finish a mid-tempo, lyrical Beatrice with good solos all round.
This mellow, rich-hued gig, taped over two nights, shows that Baker was
still playing with his accustomed sensitivity throughout and that his
front-line partners were up to the challenges of sitting alongside him and
generating rewarding results. If you’ve come across this in bootleg form
you should know that the sound quality here is fine and that this
attractive set is both thoughtful and stimulating.