Warming Up

Warming Up

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Listening Contest Winner

My apologies for the slim blogging last week. Gigs, rehearsals, and family stuff kept me off of Outside Pants all week. I think I should be back to an almost normal schedule this week though. So…

The winner of the tenth installment of the Outside Pants Guess The Trumpet Player contest is…….amazing Philly trumpeter/EVI master
John Swana. And the correct answer is…….Chet Baker. Nice work, John! Your prize is your choice of Outside Pants Vol. 1 – Old School Players or Outside Pants Vol. 2 – Ron Miles Mix or Outside Pants Vol. 3 – Brownie Mix or Outside Pants Vol.4 – Dave Douglas Mix.

This round of the contest was kinda tricky, I think. When I think of Chet Baker I think of his beautiful and relaxed trumpet sound, maybe his rather androgynous voice, and generally an overall romantic feel – nothing too complex but always tasteful and melodic. I love these things about Chet’s music. There’s a reason why his records have always sold well. Got a romantic dinner planned for your lady/man? Maybe put on some Chet Baker to put everyone in the mood. Chet’s often the illustration of the antithesis of the high/loud/fast school of jazz trumpet playing. I think there are only a few recordings of Chet eeking out a high D. Are there any recordings of him playing real loud? Not that I know of. But he certainly could play fast.

This week’s track is Chet burning on “Milestones” from 1958 (Incidentally, that's Kenny Clarke on drums. And remember, Miles Davis' album "Milestones" had just come out months before this recording was made - Chet was hip to the new modal way of playing). And he is burning on this. And his sound is way brighter than normal. Was he playing his own horn/mouthpiece on this recording? Or was his equipment in hock at the pawn store and this is borrowed equipment? Who knows, but Chettie does sound a bit different than usual here. It’s a good reminder that when Chet was in good shape (keeping up with his practicing and not totally strung out) he could really cook. Another example of Chet really playing well BTW is when he did those mid-60’s records (some with George Coleman) right after he got out of an Italian prison. When Chet was in jail those few years that’s when he claimed to have done the most regular practicing of his whole life – a few hours a day (not that much considering he didn’t have anything else to do!). The great trumpeter Jack Sheldon once complained that he had to practice 12 hours a day to do what came naturally and effortlessly to Chet. Sounded like Jack admired Chet for this but also probably resented him for it too. Let’s also not forget that Chet played with Bird for a hot minute. And supposedly Bird picked Chet. There’s some controversy about this, but it is certain that Bird kept Chet on the gig for the duration of the gig. He certainly could have gotten plenty of other LA trumpeters if he had wanted. Ever heard the live recordings from these gigs? I have. Chet sounds pretty good, but probably a little intimidated. Wouldn’t you be intimidated standing next to Bird??

Another interesting thing (at least to me) about this recording is that it is yet another example of Chet taking from the repertoire of Miles Davis. Though he obviously played a wide range of tunes over his career, Chet certainly performed and recorded a lot of tunes previously associated with Miles. All the way to the bitter end Chet would play All Blues or Solar or Walkin’ or any number of ballads that Miles had already made famous. And even Chet’s style – particularly the stuff from the 50’s is a direct imitation/assimilation of Miles’ style of playing from that period. Chet made a lot of money over his career (he lost it all too) playing Miles’ music. Of course, Miles made more. And invested more. But I would imagine that this really pissed Miles off. From what I can tell, Miles was pretty vain. I’m sure he must have been at least a little salty that Chet was winning critics and fan polls when Miles wasn’t. This must have been especially exacerbating when Miles was in one of his down periods.  I wonder what the two really thought of each other. Would Chet admit to copping some of his style from Miles? If he was in a situation where he didn’t need to prove his machismo, would Miles admit that Chet could play? Who knows. Who really cares. Regardless of speculation, it’s definitely time to spin some more Chet Baker.

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