REVIEW: Chet Baker Live in London Vol II album launch at the Jazz Cafe

L-R: John Horler, Jim Richardson, Quentin Collins,
Leo Richardson
Photo of launch from Ubuntu Music

Chet Baker Live in London Vol. II album launch
(Jazz Cafe, Camden Town, 18 Sept 2018. Review – and Interview with Jim Richardson – by Kate Delamere)

The ghost of Chet Baker was in the room when pianist John Horler's trio from the 1980's re-formed for a last time to launch Chet Baker Live in London Volume II. The trumpeter’s haunting legacy sounded in every plaintive note that spoke of empty caresses and unrealised dreams to the mixed crowd of young and old, who were left wanting more. Horler’s light mesmeric touch flattered percussive flurries from drummer Tony Mann that were complemented by Jim Richardson’s rhythmic and scurrying melancholic melodic runs on the bass prompting whoops from the audience.

The original trio were joined by Quentin Collins on trumpet paying homage to Chet’s fierce mellow style, a-league-of-his-own Leo Richardson on saxophone and special guest Cherise Adams-Burnett whose laid-back vocals were reminiscent of Chet’s and made for a truly special night.

Cool jazz cats in the audience couldn’t help toe-tapping along to tunes such as Horace Silver's Strolling and  I Remember You, The Touch of Your Lips, For Minors Only (Jimmy Heath), Sam Rivers' Beatrice and Just Friends.

And of course, the night would not have been complete without a poignant rendition of My Funny Valentine (Richard Rodgers) – the song synonymous with Chet's moody singing style.

But even the encore of It Could Happen To You didn’t satisfy this baying crowd.

A fitting tribute to the man whose life was a bittersweet refrain to wasted promise that ended abruptly aged 58 on Friday 13th May, 1988 when Chet fell to his death from a hotel room in Amsterdam. His companions in death as in life - heroin and cocaine.

Tuesday’s tribute nevertheless was one that would never have happened but for Richardson having the foresight to record Chet’s performances with the trio on his Walkman recorder in 1983 when Chet played six consecutive nights at The Canteen in London.


"Poignant...moody": My Funny Valentine
with Cherise Adams-Burnett
Photo from Ubuntu Music 


Jim, 77, from North London, recalled: ‘We got a call to work with Chet and it was nerve-wracking because he had a bad history using narcotics. He upset a great deal of people being a smack user and banging it in his arm. It blighted his life. But he’d say it helped him musically to hear better even though it made a bit of a wreck out of him.

‘When we met him he didn’t look well. But he sounded well when he put that horn to his mouth. There was no drama, he was quiet and polite. He sat side on to the audience totally focused, the trumpet next to the microphone so he’d get a close sound.

‘I nervously asked Chet in between sets if he’d allow me to record our performances. I wasn’t sure how he’d respond. He looked at my Walkman that I wanted to record it on and into my eyes then said ‘f*** you…!’ and pulled me into a big bear hug, which was his way of saying ‘of course!’

‘And the results on the Walkman were amazing!’

Jim attributes Chet as the reason he got into music and forged a successful global career as a bassist.

‘I fell in love with Chet when I heard him on the radio as a fourteen-year-old schoolboy. I was a big fan from then on, and loved his lyrics and melody. Chet’s Dad insulted him telling him he sung like a girl but I loved his sound. It was genderless, a soft sound, evocative.

‘When I left school and worked as a hod carrier on a building site I’d often find myself whistling some of Chet’s solos. They were beautiful. He had a melodic romantic warm style and fire in his belly. As far as music was concerned he was a big hero of mine. After listening to him I’d mess around with wire brushes and a tea chest playing along to records. Then in 1958 when I was 17 I got a double bass and turned professional five years later playing with big bands.’ And thanks to Jim’s cheeky request 35 years ago, a second selection from those performances has now been released as a two-CD set Chet Baker Live in London, lovingly restored under the supervision of Martin Hummel, Director of Ubuntu Music, and with an eloquent sleeve note by Richard Williams.

Jim said: ‘I’m so very proud to have been alongside John Horler and Tony Mann to form the rhythm section for Chet’s performances. Whatever issues Chet may have had throughout his dramatic life, he certainly came up with the goods in grand style at these shows. I think we can safely say we made Chet proud. And an old geezer a very happy man.’

And if the ghost of Chet Baker could talk, I bet he’d be saying ‘Back at ya, Jim!’


The launch at Jazz Cafe
Photo from Ubuntu Music


Kate Delamere is a national journalist in TV, newspapers and magazines, and writes creatively for theatre, radio and print.

LINKS: Chet Baker in London Vol II album at Ubuntu Music
CD Review: Chet Baker in London Vol II

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