Wednesday, July 20, 2005

Review: Chet Baker - Love for Sale

With over 150 albums to his credit, Chet Baker was one of the most prolific jazz trumpeters of his time. And understandably, many of his recordings are in the form of live performances. One of the latest of which is the Just A Memory Records release Love for Sale, which was recorded in 1978 at Montreal’s Rising Sun Celebrity Jazz Club.

The CD contains five tracks and runs a little over an hour thanks to three songs clocking in at over 15 minutes each. The sound quality is good. In fact, at times it’s almost too good. Upon listening to the album with headphones, I noticed all kinds of ambient and unintentional instrument noises. But hey, it gives the recording character! Turn it up loud enough and it’s like you’re right there in the club.

Baker’s band for this set included the talented and quick-fingered pianist Phil Markowitz, sax man Roger Rosenberg (who played brilliantly on the last two Steely Dan albums), Jon Burr on bass, and Jeff Brillinger on drums.

The performances are solid overall. Of course, there are a few missteps, but nothing unforgivable. Chet’s vocals on “Oh, You Crazy Moon” are somewhat difficult to endure in parts as he struggles to find the pitch. But he makes up for it with his scat on “There Will Never Be Another You.” Chet’s playing really stands out on “Snowbound” and “Love for Sale.”

Speaking of “Love for Sale,” this track is by far the most interesting song on the CD. “Love for Sale” is a complete departure from the traditional version we’ve all heard. I didn’t realize this was the Cole Porter classic until I read the liner notes. It’s a really neat arrangement that basically ignores the melody nearly altogether.

Baker was smart to surround himself with a group of musicians who could flat-out “go,” even if Chet’s better days were long behind him. But a tired and weathered Chet Baker was still better than many at full strength.

For those looking for a performance representative of Chet Baker’s later live recordings, I recommend The Last Great Concert: My Favorite Songs, Vol. 1 & 2. But if you’re just looking for a little adventure by five guys just going at it, Love for Sale should do the trick.

Track List
1. “Milestones” (Davis)
2. “Oh, You Crazy Moon” (Van Heusen/Burke)
3. “There Will Never Be Another You” (Gordon/Warren)
4. “Snowbound” (Kehner/Faith)
5. “Love for Sale” (Porter)

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