top of page

CHET BAKER in New York

RLP-117 118 A
RLP-117 118 front
RLP-117 118 back.jpg
RLP-117 118 A.jpg
RLP-117 118 B.jpg

Quintet (on Side 1, #1 and 3; Side 2, #2): Chet Backer (tp) Johnny Griffin (ts) Al Haig (p) Paul Chambers (b) Philly Joe Jones (drs)

Quartet (on other three selections): Baker, Haig, Chambers, Jones   

New York; September, 1958


1.  Fair Weather (6:55) (Benny Golson)

2.  Polka Dots and Moonbeams (7:57) (Burke – Van Heusen)

3.  Hotel 49 (8:07) (Owen Marshall)


1.  Solar (5:49) (Miles Davis)

2.  Blue Thoughts (7:35) (Benny Golson)

3.  When Lights Are Low (6:50) (Williamson – Carter)

   Followers of jazz would appear to love argument almost as much as music, and there usually seems to be some sort of Great Debate going on. Once upon a time it was Dixieland vs. be-bop; during much of the 1950s considerable conversation and many magazine pages have been devoted to discussion of the relative merits of, differences between, and what-have-you of the so-called “East Coast” and “West Coast” schools of modern jazz. Such arguments are not going to e halted by anything as specific as a record album. But this one should make the debaters pause, at least briefly: both because they are apt to be a bit startled by what takes place here and because they’re likely to find it a lot more interesting to listen than to go on arguing.

   For on this LP, CHET BAKER, the most notable of “cool” West Coast trumpet stars, joins forces with some highly talented representatives of the “hard” Eastern style. These five (and it is of some interest to note that not one of them was born in either California or New York) proceed to demonstrate at length what should be (but, somehow, often is not) an obvious and accepted jazz truth: that who you are is infinitely more meaningful than where you are form or what “school” you might be primarily linked with.

   Chet selected his associates for this occasion quite deliberately. For to him this album, and the fact that it was to be recorded in New York, meant primarily an opportunity to do the kind of ‘bowing’ that, right now, he most wants to do. It also meant a chance to set some musical facts straight; and it is our strong belief that his performance here will serve to crate a lot of new, and perhaps unexpected, Chet Baker fans.

   The bulk of Chet’s recorded work, from the time he left the Gerry Mulligan Quartet, with which he scored his first major success in 1952, has been designed to emphasize almost exclusively the romantic and lyrical qualities of his style. And in that cool and often subdued vein he has done much extremely effective playing and has reached great and satisfying heights of popularity (as reflected in his having placed first on trumpet twice each, in recent years, in both Down Beat and Metronome readers’ polls). But Chet has felt increasingly that his usual musical settings were not permitting him to say all he had to say, to play as fully as he would like. His in-person appearance have often displayed a more driving and vigorous style, and he has used, in his working groups, men like Pepper Adams and Philly Joe Jones. In particular, he has developed a preference for a more directly ‘swinging’ rhythm section.

The present alum, which is essentially unlike anything Chet has done on records before, gives him a chance to fully translate such feelings into action. Terms like “cool” and “hard bop,” it should be noted, are not only relative but dangerous. For they can be highly misleading. There is nothing automatically emotionless and ascetic about cool jazz; and hard jazz is by no means necessarily all brute force and angular sounds. The meeting ground of this record should make that clear.

   On three long tracks Chet is teamed with JOHNNY GRIFFIN, one of the most talented and exciting of present-day tenors. Griffin, who is Chicago-born, has been most prominently associated with Thelonious Monk and with Art Blakey’s jazz Messengers, which might make it seem that he and Baker are operating on very different wave-lengths. But the facts of the matter are that the two blend most remarkably well, with the vigorous Griffin sounding perhaps a shade more lyrical than usual and Chet, as intended, tougher than usual. Two of the vehicles for their coming together are numbers scored for this occasion by Benny Golson, the brilliant young composer-arranger who is very much a part of the current Eastern scene and is one of the most melodic writers on any Coast or anyplace in between. Hotel 49 is the first recorded composition of a promising new jazz writer, Owen Marshall.

   On all six selections, there is spirited and tasteful support from a stand-out rhythm section; AL HAIG, a forthright and sensitive pianist who is in the “youthful veteran” category by virtue of having worked wit both Dizzy Gillespie and Charlie Parker during the ‘40s, as well as in a Baker group in ’55: PAUL CHAMBERS, one of the very best of the large crop of outstanding young bassists to come along in the past few years and currently with Miles Davis; and PHILLY JOE JONES, who has toured with Miles, and (as an indication of our regard for his talents) is the drummer most frequently used on Riverside dates. This trio creates a rather awesome combination of drive and control, lifting Chet buoyantly on a tune like Miles’ Solar, and helping ballad-tempo numbers like Blue Thoughts and Polka Dots and Moonbeams to be richly lyric without danger of being soporific.

   This LP is intended solely as good, swinging jazz; but it would seem that it also manages to deliver a couple of messages. One, of course, is to beware of those who generalize about the incompatability of different “schools” of jazz. And another is that Chet Baker, whose present followers should find this album a source of much enjoyment may also have a message for people who have not yet dug him.

   Chet’s previous album for Riverside was –

It Could Happen to You: CHET BAKER Sings (RLP 12-278)

   Griffin has been featured on several Riverside LPs, including -

JOHNNY GRIFFIN Sextet; with Pepper Adams, Donald Byrd (RLP 12-264)

Way Out: JOHNNY GRIFFIN Quartet RLP 12-274)

The Chicago Sound: WILBUR WARE Quintet featuring Johnny Griffin (RLP 12-252)

Thelonious in Action: THELONIOUS MONK Quartet; with Johnny Griffin (RLP 12-262)

Big Six: BLUE MITCHELL, with Griffin, Curtis Fuller, Philly Joe Jones (RLP 12-273)

   Philly Joe has appeared on many Riverside LPs (including the first two Griffin albums listed above), 

   frequently working together with Chambers. Jones’ first LP as a leader will be –

Blues for Dracula: PHILLY JOE JONES Sextet; with Nat Adderley, Johnny Griffin (RLP 12-282)

   Other top stars of modern jazz are featured on such albums as –

Mulligan Meets Monk: THELONIOUS MONK and GERRY MULLIGAN (RLP 12-247)

Monk’s Music: THELONIOUS MONK Septet; with Coleman Hawkins, John Coltrane, Art Blakey (RLP 12-242)

Deeds, Not Words: MAX ROACH Quintet (RLP 12-280)

Portrait of Cannonball: JULIAN ADDERLEY Quintet (RLP 12-269)

Freedom Suite: SONNY ROLLINS (RLP 12-258)

It’s Magic: ABBEY LINCOLN sings, with Kenny Dorham, Art Farmer, Benny Golson (RLP 12-277)

This Is the Moment: KENNY DORHAM Sings and Plays, with Curtis Fuller (RLP 12-275)

The Modern Touch: BENNY GOLSON Sextet; with J. J. Johnson, Kenny Dorham (RLP 12-256)

In Orbit: CLARK TERRY Quartet; featuring Thelonious Monk (RLP 12-271)

10 to 4 at the 5-Spot: PEPPER ADAMS Quitnet: with Donald Byrd (RLP 12-265)

Sultry Serenade: HERBIE MANN (RLP 12-234)

A HIGH FIDELITY Recording – Riverside-Reeves SPECTROSONIC High Fidelity Engineering

   (Audio Compensation: RIAA Curve).

Produced, and notes written by ORRIN KEEPNEWS.

Cover by PAUL WELLER (photography) and PAUL BACON (design).

Engineer: JACK HIGGINS (Reeves Sound Studios).


553 West 51st Street New York 19, N.Y.

bottom of page