Acoustic Sounds

Chet Baker

Blue Room



Label: Jazz Detective

Produced By: Edwin Rutten and Lex Lammen (reissue produced by Zev Feldman & Frank Jochemsen)

Engineered By: Jim Rip

Mastered By: Marc Broer

Lacquers Cut By: Bernie Grundman

By: Michael Fremer

April 22nd, 2023


Jazz Cool Jazz



Previously Unreleased Chet Baker Sessions Make For a Sweet Record Store Day Release

1979 Vara Studio sessions are a dutch treat

Chet Baker is probably more popular today than when he was actively recording, and boy, was he active. Craft Records has lovingly reissued his early Riverside output, including some RSD specials. I was digging through my Baker holdings and found "Smoking'/With the Chet Baker Quintet",(Prestige PR7449), "Quartet: Russ Freeman and Chet Baker" (World Pacific WP-1232) that previously belonged to Billy Taylor (!)

Billy Taylortwo great ones on Steeplechase: "The Touch of Your Lips" (SCS1132) and "No Problem" (SCS1131), "Chet Baker the legacy Vol. 1)" a November 14, 1987 performance in Hamburg, Germany with the NDR big band six months before he was found dead on the sidewalk in front of his Amsterdam hotel and released on Enja in 1995 (I think i have here somewhere "Chet Baker: The Last Great Concert" also on Enja but I couldn't find it), "Chet Baker She Was Too Good To Me" (CTI 6050 S1), a sumptuously produced Don Sebesky orchestral date with Paul Desmond, Hubert Laws, Jack DeJohnette and others, and of course the soundtrack to Bruce Weber's disturbing film "Let's Get Lost" starring Chet Baker, which he never got to see.

Herbie Hancock's liner notes from the Let's Get Lost release sum Baker up well: "Chet...was from the west coast, and even though he played in that cool, California style, with aa lightly swinging rhythm, he was one of a handful of the west coast jazz musicians who played with a subtle strength that was n a par with the great power emanating from the east coast. The notes he chose had an incredible depth that really appealed to me." Hancock, writing about his experience with Baker, who performed on Hancock's score for the film "Round Midnight", added, "I remember how fresh his first take was. He followed the chords as if he had known them all his life. The notes became pivots connecting the chords. His intuition was flawless, his musical choices perfect."

Elsewhere in the annotation Hancock noted, "He sang some romantic ballads in a smooth, smokey voice. Many people would agree that he played a very important role in their love life."

So, yes, there's a lot of great Baker on many stellar Baker records. Producer Feldman is a "completist", particularly where Bill Evans and Chet Baker are concerned (among many others). Last year for Black Friday he released Chet Baker Live In Paris for Elemental Music.This year for RSD it's this set, which finds Baker in excellent musical and physical condition backed by different rhythm sections, one April 10, 1979 and the other November, 9th, 1979 playing a combination of standards and jazz originals by Miles Davis and Wayne Shorter.

These were not "pick up backing band" sessions. Rather, Baker was well tuned in to the musicians with whom he was playing, and the playing is very fine Baker. The sound is also remarkably fine, with Baker's horn and voice especially well-captured. Not stated but clearly the tapes were digitized and Bernie Grundman cut from files. The overall sonic picture is clean, and pleasingly dry with a well organized instrumental spread. The reverb behind the instruments is modest and tastefully applied. However, though of course I don't know the recording, it sounds as if more than a modest amount of dynamic compression was applied during the digital mastering. Nonetheless, this is aa very pleasing sounding recording and record.

In addition to an attractive gatefold package, the set includes a full sized, glossy booklet with photos and extensive annotation written by the original producer and by musicians who played with Baker on this record. The written material helps bring to life these forty plus year nearly forgotten performances.

With all that Baker material out there, if you're looking for a Chet Baker introduction, this wouldn't be my recommended choice, but for fans, (especially those for whom Baker played an important role in their love life), this previously unknown recorded performance will make for a welcomed addition to the wall of Chet Baker records.

Though the set is limited to 5000 copies, I think you'll be able to find it well after RSD.

Music Specifications

Catalog No: DDJD-007

Pressing Plant: GZ or GZ affiliate


Speed/RPM: 33 1/3

Weight: 180 grams

Size: 12"

Channels: Stereo

Source: digital files produced from analog tape

Presentation: Multi LP


  • 2023-04-22 04:59:47 PM

    Bob wrote:

    I ordered the CD from the Netherlands Jazz Archive (NJA) and should be getting it in any moment and am very keen to check out this unique live performance. I'm surprised to see you review it as an LP. Thought it was uniquely produced in the Netherlands bij the NJA. Would like to know if the LP is available as wel. I've found your review a little off focus if you don't mind me saying so. Even though you rate the music and quality both with an 8, there is no review of the actual performance on the record itself. Maybe you can be so kind to elaborate that. Thanks. A response from the Netherlands 😊🇳🇱

    • 2023-04-22 05:18:10 PM

      Malachi Lui wrote:

      the LP set is available today for RSD and might stick around for a bit after that

    • 2023-04-22 05:37:28 PM

      Michael Fremer wrote:

      I never mind criticism. I welcome it. As the annotation says, Baker's repertoire was limited and so what you have here is a mix of "American songbook" standards and a few jazz titles like Miles' "Nardis". Baker was such a straightforward performer that I felt was so well captured in Hancock's annotation for "Let's Get Lost", I didn't feel it necessary to add much about the particular performances. Either Baker is "on" or going through the motions. He's captured on record so often. These performances are not revelatory—you're not going to learn something new about Baker, other than that a short time before his passing, he sounds happy, content and confident. His melancholic side is in check and this is more joyous. But otherwise I don't know what to add. He's in his usual tight pocket throughout, making it sound easy, which in part explains his enduring popularity. He sets things straight and relaxes the listener. What else can I write? This isn't exploratory or groundbreaking jazz. As is typical he can play impossibly slow as on "Luscious Lou" and make every well-organized note count. I thought Herbie Hancock described it better than I so I let him say it.

      • 2023-04-22 06:46:43 PM

        Bob wrote:

        Really appreciate your quick response on this Michael and understand your explanation. Additionally, an 8 on sound quality is of course subjective and wonder how the CD will sound. Btw, love these type of reviews! Looking forward to the next one.

      • 2023-04-22 09:34:21 PM

        NLak wrote:

        Thanks for this Michael, really appreciate your summary. Cheers NL

  • 2023-04-25 04:04:54 PM

    Chris O'Shea wrote:

    Bob… why would you be surprised to see a record reviewed on the vinyl format on Tracking Angle site??

    • 2023-04-27 08:42:10 PM

      Bob wrote:

      Not because it's an LP, it's because I thought I had first access to it by pre-order of the CD at the source who helped produce the Hilversum recording, the Netherlands Jazz Archive in Amsterdam. They did not have the vinyl version available. But happy to see Michael's review here.

  • 2023-04-27 09:00:05 PM

    Bob wrote:

    Reviewed the CD with the following equipment; Audiolab 6000cdt CD transport, Technics SU-R1000 amplifier, Monitor Audio Platinum PL200 speakers. Right off I would rate the sound at a 10 and the performance an 11. Of course this is my personal rating and is subjective. This is a great recording set in a time frame where Dutch producer Edwin Rutten did a excellent job getting these very different characters to play in harmony (not always easy). A lot of tracks are first takes and sound very clean. The quality is true Hilversum VARA studio sound. The mastering for CD is excellent, very detailed with not a hint of sharpness. Hearing Chet sing as very emotional, it's almost like hearing his life passing by. I am so glad they found these recordings. Very special indeed. Highly recommended.