The New York Second Music At Night (Sena 2021)

NEW RELEASE – THE NEW YORK SECOND

The New York Second expertly jazzifies the essays of Aldous Huxley. Try it some time.

The New York Second - Music At Night

Personnel

Harald Walkate (piano), Teus Nobel (trumpet, flugelhorn), Mark Alban Lotz (alto saxophone, flute), Jesse Schilderink (tenor saxophone), Vincent Veneman (trombone), Thomas Pol (bass), Max Sergeant (drums)

Recorded

at Wedgeview in 2021

Released

on Sena in 2021

Track listing

These Are The Chosen Words
Him, A Bull? Ha! A Bird
The Bostonian
The Drowned World
Music At Night
No More Epilogues
The Keys Ain’t The Keys No More
The Ayes Have It
The Drowned World (reprise)


There has been a steady flow of ‘literary’ or shall we say ‘conceptual’ jazz recordings in The Netherlands of late. Under The Surface featuring Sanne Rambags has built an album around pre-Middle Age lyrical sources. Coal Harbor’s Feedforward focuses on the 21st century paradox of growth and decline. Bass clarinetist Joris Roelofs’ Rope Dance is inspired by Friedrich Nietzsche. The inspiration of Mete Erker and Jeroen van Vliet’s In stems from the utopian story Island by Aldous Huxley, writer of the famous book Brave New World.

While reviewing those projects has been left in the able hands of others elsewhere, I do have permission to share my thoughts on The New York Second’s Music At Night here, which incidentally takes Huxley’s book of essays Music At Night as the springboard for eight carefully crafted compositions by Amsterdam-based pianist and bandleader Harald Walkate. In various combinations, The New York Second has released three albums, preceding their latest by Bay Of Poets and Emergo. Besides Walkate, the band nowadays includes trumpeter and flugelhorn player (and co-producer) Teus Nobel, alto saxophonist and flutist Mark Alban Lotz, tenor saxophonist Jesse Schilderink, trombonist Vincent Veneman, bassist Thomas Pol and drummer Max Sergeant.

Interestingly, Leiden-born Walkate (1970) kindly explained by email that he is not only a jazz musician but also works in finance. His travel experiences seep through in his work, in the case of Music At Night, for instance, visits to Paris, Boston and Florida. Walkate: “Naturally, while I’m staying abroad I always go to concerts and get into touch with local musicians.”

There’s always the risk that ‘literary’ and ‘conceptual’ spiral out of control and equate with pompousness. (It happens) Though the repertoire of Music At Night definitely is through-composed, Walkate and The New York Second successfully manage to avoid this pitfall. The arcs of Walkate’s diverse and suspenseful tunes are tackled expressively and his uncanny timing and voicing of brass and reed keeps the listener on the edge of his seat.

Walkate himself (you get the feeling you have come to know this man and charming writer a bit by reading the extensive liner notes by him and friends and you imagine him seated in a Chesterfield chair, glass of Scotch in one hand, a book by James Thurber in the other… or am I picturing myself… liner notes that may certainly enhance your listening experience, though it has to be said that the music perfectly stands on its own) is a thoughtful soloist. Especially enticing during the sultry, film noir-ish The Keys Ain’t The Keys No More, Walkate performs a fully rounded short story of repetitive motives and rhythmic shifts.

It would be insincere to say that all tunes are equally satisfying to me. However, coherence and a good flow are strong points of the album and ‘satisfying’ (and ‘easy peasy’) are words that appropriately describe the task of picking a couple of winners. The hilarious title of Him, A Bull? Ha! A Bird coincidentally is an anagram of Abdullah Ibrahim, whose style is said to prefigure that of The New York Second’s pater familias. The ballad shifts focus to an anecdote of a meeting between Hemingway and Picasso and features lively playing by Schilderink, whose tenor sound is imbued with a slightly raw edge and growl.

A nimble and exotic beat nudges along Music At Night, a multi-layered piece that benefits not only from the melodic leading role of Pol’s bass but also from Veneman’s killer trombone, Lotz’s supple flute and Nobel’s flexible trumpet (remarkably steady and spicy in all registers). Here’s a bunch of cats that capitalize on Walkate’s opportunities like elegant strikers on the soccer pitch of Camp Nou.

That makes up for a hattrick. And then some. The oblique but tantalizing movements of The Ayes Have It seem to find the middle ground between dark-hued Wayne Shorter and uplifting Duke Pearson. And arguably also resemble the stylings of one of Walkate’s self-declared favorite bands, the jazz and literature-inspired alt-pop phenomenon Steely Dan. To be sure, Walkate/The New York Second and Becker/Fagen have in common high-level musicianship and a great ear for detail and definitely delivered a must-hear.

The New York Second

Find Music At Night on Walkate’s website here.

Ricardo Pinheiro Gestures/Momentum (Inner Circle Music 2022)

NEW RELEASE – RICARDO PINHEIRO

Ricardo Pinheiro’s live recordings from 2009 with Chris Cheek make clear that the Portuguese guitarist had developed a personal style long before he became more visible on the international stages.

Ricardo Pinheiro - Gestures

Ricardo Pinheiro - Momentum

Personnel

Ricardo Pinheiro (guitar), Chris Cheek (tenor and soprano saxophone), Mário Laghina (piano), João Paulo Esteves da Silva (Fender Rhodes), Demian Labaud (bass), Alexander Frazão (drums)

Recorded

at S. Luiz Theatre, Lisbon on June 28, 2009

Released

Inner Circle Music in 2022

Track listing

Gestures:
Somewhere Nowhere
Pop-up
Sereno (Para Patricia)
Open Letter (To Leo)
Momentum:
Mechanique
Reflektion
Isabel
Soleil Levant


At the time, Pinheiro’s band no doubt gained ‘momentum’. It moves dynamically in and out of varying spheres, often within the context of one composition. Pinheiro’s airy sound gives his music something of its own. His music switches from Jethro Tull-type lines to funky fusion and elaborate ballads, embellished by Mediterranean and South-American spices, courtesy of 4/5th of his group’s line-up. Besides American guest artist Chris Cheek on tenor and soprano saxophone, Pinheiro is accompanied by pianist Mário Laghina and Fender Rhodes player João Paulo Esteves da Silva from Portugal, bassist Demian Labaud from Argentina and drummer Alexander Frazão from Brazil.

Pinheiro kindly answered some questions about his twin album release. He says: “Chris Cheek was part of my group back in 2008-2010. He is one of my favorite saxophone players in the whole world. We recorded these two albums in June 2009 live at the Teatro S. Luiz in Lisbon, and I became aware of this recording only in September 2021. As the artistic director of the Sintra Jazz Festival 2021, I encountered the sound engineer who showed me the recording – he recorded that particular concert back in 2009. I listened to it and thought the music was happening.”

About the exotic tinges of some of his compositions: “Maybe there is some hidden Mediterranean flavor in the music. Some harmonic progressions, melodies and rhythms maybe suggest this Southern-European utopian imagination, I guess! It must be something that comes out naturally, without any kind of imposition or overthinking. Melody drives my compositional process, and I always try to write beautiful melodies without over-rationalizing about them.”

Cheek probes and smoothly finds his way in the woods of Pinheiro’s sumptuous melodies. His interaction with Soleil Levant’s juicy rhythm is an especially interesting experience. Mário Laghina’s quicksilver piano and João Paulo Esteves da Silva’s Rhodes lines take the fusion of Pop-Up to a higher level. Although his sound here, more woolly than usual, gives the impression of a runaway satellite from a space station, Pinheiro’s statements are equally fulfilling.

Pinheiro and his men revel in their handling of the dream-like Isabel, an enticing and free-flowing piece of rubato lyricism, double-time as well as suggested rhythm, which kind of reflects the temperamental waves and swell of the sea, not least because of Pinheiro’s beautifully executed tone and volume control effects. Pinheiro would elaborate on his balanced bag of tricks on Pinheiro/Cavalli/Ineke’s Triplicity in 2018 and Turn Out The Stars in 2021 and Pinheiro’s Caruma in 2020. He has been very inventive in this respect.

By all means, Pinheiro’s belated album release of Gestures and Momentum by Greg Osby’s Inner Circle Music is not an unnecessary luxury.

Ricardo Pinheiro

Find Gestures and Momentum here.

Michiel Stekelenburg Trio Onoda (ZenneZ 2022)

NEW RELEASE – MICHIEL STEKELENBURG

Trio Onoda prowls the borders of the guitar/organ combo format.

Michiel Stekelenburg - Trio Onoda

Personnel

Michiel Stekelenburg (guitar), Arno Krijger (organ), Jasper van Hulten (drums)

Recorded

at Wedgeview Studio in the 21st century

Released

ZR 2202010 in 2022

Track listing

Onoda
Steroids
Keyser Söze
As We Grow
Consecotaleophobia
Slow
Five
Seven On Two
Mist


Acouple of exceptional originals is a necessity for a good band and a good record. Ace guitarist Michiel Stekelenburg, a particularly growing presence on the international fusion circuit, meets demands. Underpinned by wahwah-ish vibrations, Stekelenburg rips and roars through the rock-funk of Consecotaleophobia, no doubt a flagwaver during live performances. Onoda is the album’s strongest mood piece, flamenco-tinged and laden with tension, as if you’re watching the miraculous blossoming of an orchid in the time span of six minutes. Courageous way to kickstart a record.

Stekelenburg wrote some erratically patterned ballbreakers that are tackled fluently by the trio and songs that, though hardly unforgettable in my mind, are springboards for solid improvisation. Arno Krijger is the secret weapon. The way that the versatile organist sonically steers the proceedings, sometimes punchy, other times deliberately oblique, is pretty nifty and Krijger’s misterioso stories are balanced and to the point.

Keyser Söze (ears of cinema aficionados perk up) includes a slight suggestion of swing and the dichotomy of sturdy fusion and loose feel is rather suspenseful and alluring, making us want more where that came from.

Michiel Stekelenburg

Find Trio Onoda here.

Harold Mabern - Rakin' And Scrapin'

Harold Mabern Rakin’ And Scrapin’ (Prestige 1970)

Heavyweight sideman came of age as a leader in the late 1960’s.

Harold Mabern - Rakin' And Scrapin'

Personnel

Harold Mabern (piano, electric piano), Blue Mitchell (trumpet), George Coleman (tenor saxophone), Bill Lee (bass), Hugh Walker (drums)

Recorded

on December 23, 1969 at Van Gelder Studio, Englewood Cliffs, New Jersey

Released

as PR7624 in 1970

Track listing

Side A:
Rakin’ And Scrapin’
Such Is Life
Side B:
Aon
I Heard It Through The Grapevine
Valerie


Harold Mabern was born in Memphis, Tennessee, major capital of rhythm and blues and soul, where young Harold, as he reminisces in the liner notes, asked his father for some money, his father with his very modest income replying that he’d try to rake and scrape up some. Hence the title Rakin’ And Scrapin’. Mabern grew up with buddies Booker Little, George Coleman and Frank Strozier. Mabern’s debut album as a leader was From Memphis To New York in 1968. Mabern moved to New York City in 1959 and stayed true to The Big Apple, a stalwart for exactly sixty years, till his passing in 2019 at the age of 83.

New York jazz is heavily indebted to Mabern, exceptional hard-bop and post-bop pianist that played and recorded with Lionel Hampton, J.J. Johnson, Lee Morgan, Hank Mobley and Freddie Hubbard, who vigorously and enthusiastically passed on his knowledge to the new breed. Mabern was closely associated with Eric Alexander, Joe Farnsworth, Steve Davis and other contemporary class acts that came up in the early 1990’s. His last recorded efforts were Mabern Plays Coltrane featuring Alexander and Vincent Herring in 2018 and a feature on the late great drummer Jimmy Cobb’s last album This I Dig Of You in 2019. Warriors until the very end.

What you get in the aftermath of Lee Morgan’s surprising hit of The Sidewinder on Blue Note in 1964 is rival companies like Prestige that rely on the skills of their artists to write a promising, catchy tune, in this instance Harold Mabern’s Rakin’ And Scrapin’, lurid boogaloo affair that features vibrant solos from trumpeter Blue Mitchell and tenor saxophonist George Coleman, good company. Rakin’ And Scrapin’ wasn’t a big seller, it was 1969 ok, all across the USA, another year for me and you, another year with nothing to do, as Iggy Pop from The Stooges sang, though, actually, plenty was happenin’, chief among those the Vietnam War crisis, while interest in mainstream jazz dwindled and rock jazz was on the rise. Plenty of people enjoyed funky stuff, provided by musicians that jazzed up James Brown and The Isley Brothers. Competition for Mabern (Lou Donaldson, Lonnie Smith, Eddie Harris, Boogaloo Joe Jones) was fierce.

Who cares, it’s 2022, oh my and a boo-hoo, continuing sagas of crises, and we’re looking back on a charmingly quirky mix of music, which besides Mabern’s boogaloo tune veers between serious post-bop and the electric piano-driven cover of I Heard It Through The Grapevine, which, admittedly, is rather stiff and superficial. Contrary to this, Mabern’s uptempo Aon hits bull’s eye, a sparkling piece that extends the refreshing work of Herbie Hancock and Andrew Hill from the mid-1960’s and features intense piano stylings by Mabern. Torrents of notes, like bountiful drops of water from a fountain. Punchy and dense “McCoy Tyner” chords and voicing. Top-notch stuff.

Mabern’s Such Is Life is no joke either, the kind of original ballad that should be picked up by contemporary jazzers besides perennial favorites as Body And Soul and Darn That Dream. Just a thought.

Listen to the full album on YouTube here.

Just Friends

GIG – JAN VAN DUIKEREN

Bimhuis presents a series of challenging Spring Duets on May 12 & 13. Flophouse spotlights the pairing of trumpeter Jan van Duikeren and drummer John Engels.

Jan van Duikeren (1975) is one of the major Dutch trumpeters. His diverse career includes cooperations with Christian McBride, James Carter, Joshua Redman, Dr. John, Diana Ross, New Cool Collective and Candy Dulfer. Van Duikeren is a mainstay at the acclaimed Jazz Orchestra of the Concertgebouw.

87-year-old John Engels has played with Clifford Brown, Teddy Edwards, Sonny Stitt, Don Byas and many many others. A pioneering Dutch modern jazz drummer, Engels was part of the crackerjack hard bop group The Diamond Five in the late 1950 and early 1960’s, a group that in an unusual turn of events took ownership of the legendary Sheherazade club in Amsterdam. It’s a period that Engels fondly remembers. The drummer also especially cherishes his stint with Chet Baker, documented on one of Baker’s finest albums, Live In Tokyo.

Middle-aged Van Duikeren and veteran Engels have a special rapport. Van Duikeren says: “We have been friends since the 1990’s. It seems that we gel very well on a musical level and share a view on what’s important in jazz music.” Engels is part of the trumpeter’s JVD4, which released Dear John (a title that speaks volumes) in 2016. An excellent album that also features pianist Karel Boehlee and bassist Aram Kersbergen. Take a listen to Chinook, Van Duikeren really tears it up, buoyantly breaking out of the changes.

At the tail end of 2021, Van Duikeren released Short Stories. Here, the JVD4 is embellished by the Metropole string section. It’s a gorgeous, lush ballad record that showcases Van Duikeren’s typically melodic, understated and crystal-clear trumpet. A perfect soundtrack to nocturnal strolls in the big city, there you are, in Paris, Vienna or Amsterdam, along the river that intersperses the bustling center, walkin’ with someone very close to your heart… Great stuff.

Jan van Duikeren & John Engels

Go to Bimhuis here.
Find Short Stories on Zennez here.
Find the vinyl edition of Dear John on Challenge Records here.
Check out Van Duikeren’s website here.

Eric Ineke Swingin’ Boppin’ And Burnin’ (Daybreak 2022)

NEW RELEASE – ERIC INEKE

Ultimate sideman and hard bop ambassador Eric Ineke can’t and won’t stop swingin’, boppin’ and burnin’.

Eric Ineke - Swingin' Boppin' And Burnin'

Personnel

Eric Ineke (drums) and Rein de Graaff, Koos Serierse, Marius Beets, Jimmy Raney, Doug Raney, Ben Webster, Maynard Ferguson, Frans Elsen, John Marshall, Etta Jones, Houston Person, Pepper Adams, Piet Noordijk and others.

Recorded

1968-2007

Released

Daybreak 801 in 2022

Track listing

Hersey Bar
I Thought About You
Ornithology
Easy Living
Thou Swell
Tangerine
Eric’s Blues
The Theme
Jotosko


Rarely if ever have I heard such a quiet drum solo as the one that Eric Ineke played at his 70th Birthday Bash at Bimhuis, Amsterdam five years ago. It was quieter than soft winds through your hair. That was a festive occasion with buoyant bop and hard bop. Hence, Ineke’s contrasting, hushed and exceptionally skilled performance was all the more exciting.

The Dutch veteran that played with everybody from Dizzy Gillespie to Johnny Griffin and Dexter Gordon, is not the stereotypical drum soloist. Although he occasionally takes center stage, Ineke prefers concise statements and the interactive trading of eights and fours – if called by the spirit, twos. Typically, Ineke is a supportive and propulsive drummer that links Philly Joe to Elvin Jones and the big picture – wrenching every inch of soul from his bandmates that they’ve got – is his core business.

In honor of his 75th birthday, which again was celebrated at Bimhuis in April, Daybreak has released Swingin’ Boppin’ And Burnin’. It’s a compilation that compares well to Ineke’s 70th Birthday CD Let There Be Life, Love And Laughter: Eric Ineke Meets The Tenor Players and a feast of hard-swinging and subtle mainstream jazz recognition. Honestly, where else can you find such a diversity of characteristic soloists? Surprisingly, this diversity and timeline of 1968-2007 is not in any way confusing, certainly due to bassist/remastering engineer Marius Beets’s resonant and consistent sound concept.

Most of all, Ineke is the tie that binds the unique stylings of Jimmy Raney, Ben Webster, Maynard Ferguson and Pepper Adams, among others. Exceptionally alert and gifted with far-reaching songbook and drum historic knowledge, Ineke pretty much always finds the groove that fits the particular soloist, which coupled with a congenial and enthusiastic personality has made him one of Europe’s ideal drumming accompanists since the late 1960’s. For those in the know, it is no surprise to find extremes as Ineke’s subtle and driving brush work on pianist Frans Elsen’s version of Thou Swell and the explosive Art Blakey stylings of his band The JazzXPress’s intense Jotosko.

A couple of standout moments are Ben Webster’s (and, lest we forget, hot damn, Tete Montoliu’s) fervent ride through the anthemic stereotypical set closer The Theme and Jimmy Raney’s harmonically astute handling of Hersey Bar. The way Eric and his band kick the commonly understated Scott Hamilton into increasingly higher gears on Tangerine and trumpeter John Marshall’s sweet and sour handling of the beautiful ballad Easy Living further justify the conclusion that the pairing of Ineke and his closest musical associate, pianist Rein de Graaff, is one of the all-time great European modern jazz partnerships. The duo and its crackerjack contemporary and famous long-gone companions are like a shoal of dolphins that in a completely natural way continue its jumpin’ and jivin’ journey in and on the undercurrents and waves of the ocean.

This excellent compilation is awarded him warmly. Who knows what 80 will bring.

Eric Ineke

Find Swingin’ Boppin’ & Burnin’ here.

Chet Baker - Chet Is Back!

Chet Baker Chet Is Back! (RCA 1962)

Chet was back with a vengeance.

Chet Baker - Chet Is Back!

Personnel

Chet Baker (trumpet), Bobby Jaspar (tenor saxophone, flute), Amedeo Tommasi (piano), René Thomas (guitar), Benoit Guersin (bass), Daniel Humair (drums)

Recorded

on January 5-15 at RCA Italiana Studios, Rome

Released

as RCA 10307 in 1962

Track listing

Side A:
Well, You Needn’t
These Foolish Things
Barbados
Star Eyes
Chet
Over The Rainbow
Pent-Up House
Ballata In Forma Di Blues
Blues In The Closet


The man and the myth. Misunderstandings about Chet Baker are ubiquitous. Everything about the hip junkie and hobo oozed jazz. Cool cat, good copy. No shortage of hangers-on that love to share so-called badass experiences with the iconic trumpeter. The portrayal of Baker in Bruce Weber’s documentary Let’s Get Lost features wonderful music but is shamelessly romantic. The saga continues with the Dutch movie My Foolish Heart, a silly movie that is marked by outstanding trumpet playing by Dutch trumpeter Ruud Breuls. Better read Dutch bassist and writer Jeroen de Valk’s Chet Baker; His Life And Music, a close account of Baker’s life and career that debunks many myths, among those the belief that Baker was murdered in his Amsterdam hotel room and the stories that his teeth were kicked out and admirers recorded Baker’s trumpet playing outside the walls of jail in Italy. Plenty of good jazz stories remain once the fairy tales have worn out.

The man and the music. What can I say? Baker’s discography is extensive and getting back into the work of Baker now and then is a joy, picking old favorites and discovering new ones in the process. Inevitably, there are let-downs. Baker, in particularly bad shape in the 1960’s, made his share of mediocre records. Hours of Baker on end leads to a craving for a little variety, in the case of Baker the hunger for spicy hot trumpet. But no mistaking, there’s nothing like Chet Baker’s cushion-soft lyricism, pure gold, pure sunlight, pure melody, pure angels playing doctor in the snow…

Remember what Buddy de Franco reportedly said: “We were all jealous of his talent.”

And Hank Jones: “Chet’s playing affected many people, from the standpoint of its simplicity. (…) His playing was simple – perhaps! But he had complex chords in mind. He may have been dancing all around, but he was conforming exactly to the chord progressions of the tune, or of the tune as he had arranged the chords. It only appeared to be simple. This is probably the best expression of an artist – when the artists can make something appear to be simple. And yet underneath, it was complicated harmonically.” (Gene Lees, Waiting For Dizzy)

If they say so. And him that’s got ears and them that love Chet Baker cherish the man and the music, unless you once started off with his Mariachi Brass LP’s on World Pacific and couldn’t be bothered. So much to explore but time and again I fail to snatch Hazy Hugs from the bins, his record with the Amstel Octet on Timeless in 1985. Baker didn’t bother to take off his bathrobe and change garb for the photo shoot. Night and/or day, who cares. Having lately focused on ‘straight-ahead’ Chet, I naturally gravitated to revisits of And Crew on Pacific Jazz from 1956, a solid record featuring Bobby Timmons and In New York featuring Johnny Griffin and Philly Joe Jones on Riverside from 1958. Riverside’s label boss Orrin Keepnews put Baker in different settings – climaxing with the vibrant and smooth vocal album It Could Happen To You – but also opted for a hard bop album.

In New York is excellent though I feel that something’s missing. Hot trumpet perhaps. Both And Crew and In New York – as well as the excellent bop-inflected Playboys with Art Pepper and Phil Urso – were made in between problematic encounters with the law and jail sentences on drugs charges. In 1959, Baker knew the net was closing in and fled to Europe. During his first sojourn to Europe in 1955, Baker found himself in Paris, jazz-minded capital of France, smoky Bohemian cellar of existentialism, turtleneck-sweatered paradise of croissant and cool. Small wonder they loved Chet Baker over there. The Barclay label fancied the trumpeter and gave him the opportunity to record with fellow traveler and pianist Dick Twardzik. Twardzik tragically died from a heroin overdose in Paris. Their finest cooperation was The Chet Baker Quartet (or Rondette), a record of challenging compositions by Adam Zieff. Lovely record!

Baker was warmly received in Europe but it wasn’t all fun and games. To quote The Grateful Dead: “Trouble ahead, trouble behind, Casey Jones you better watch your speed.” The establishment was keen to bust Baker and the trumpeter finally was arrested and indicted in Italy, serving his sentence in Lucca. Baker finally got out of prison at the tail end of 1961. He recorded Chet Is Back in January 1962, arguably the finest of his bop and hard bop albums, quite amazing considering his circumstances.

The Bakerman was back on track, his sound confident and bright, his solos replete with ideas and impromptu deviations that make clear the trumpeter felt like a fish in the water. Baker’s free-spirited handling of Monk’s melody of Well, You Needn’t, which also features a spontaneous stop-time chorus, and the clarion-call of the high note that ends his solo of Parker’s Barbados are intriguing cases in point. Ever the great ballad man, Baker’s renditions of These Foolish Things and Over The Rainbow abundantly affirm Hank Jones’s theory of Baker’s greatness.

It’s a consistent album, completed by Star Eyes, Rollins’s Pent-Up House, Pettiford’s Blues In The Closet and Tomassi’s Balatta In Forma Di Blues. Baker is matched by his European partners. The pan-European fest features the Belgian guitarist René Thomas, tenor saxophonist and flutist Bobby Jaspar and bassist Benoit Guersin, Italian pianist Amedeo Tommasi and Swiss drummer Daniel Humair. They’re hot, fresh, bubbling with joy and anticipation. That’s what I love about Baker’s cooperation with the crème de la crème of Europe: regardless of excellent American counterparts, this one’s got the edge.

René Was Back as well, the guitarist from Liège had spent a couple of years in the USA and received compliments by cooperators Sonny Rollins and Miles Davis. Back in Europe improved his Jimmy Raney-based style. He’s one of a kind, intense, hypnotizing, employing a lilting, gypsy-like tone. The wealth of ideas and blues variations that Thomas displays on Blues In The Closet gets near Planet Parker. The spicy, mature playing of Bobby Jaspar, acclaimed tenorist and flutist that had already been featured on recordings with J.J. Johnson, Kenny Burrell and John Coltrane, is another great asset of Chet Is Back. A great day in Rome.

A couple of years later, Prestige released a series of records that were culled from one session: Smokin’, Groovin’, Comin’ On, Cool Burnin’ and Boppin’ featuring George Coleman and Kirk Lightsey. Omnipresent, lauded albums on jazz fora on the internet highway. But apart from the fact that copying the title word play of Miles Davis’s pioneering hard bop records on Prestige from 1955/56 was not a good idea, I’m not convinced of its so-called excellence. It’s a great band but Baker sounds uninspired and tired.

As straight-ahead jazz goes, Baker’s albums on Steeplechase, recorded live at Jazzhus Montmartre in Copenhagen with guitarist Doug Raney and bassist Niels-Henning Orsted Pedersen are highlights of his career. Then there’s The Improviser from 1983, Chet Baker firing off bop crackers with a very good Scandinavian band. So much to explore…