The Qobuz Standard
Chet Baker's first trip to Paris had its share of twists. His regular pianist, Russ Freeman, was unavailable, so the promising young player Dick Twardzik was recruited. Unfortunately, a few weeks after the quartet arrived, Twardzik was found dead in his hotel room from a heroin overdose. Baker still had bookings to honor, so he recruited French pianist René Urtreger and drummer Bert Dahlander to replace Peter Littman (who had returned to the U.S.). The first of four volumes includes all of the selections recorded for Barclay that feature the Baker quartet with Twardzik; all but one were composed by Bob Zieff, enjoyable pieces but hardly expected to become a part of the jazz canon. Twardzik plays a little bit of celeste at the beginning of his composition "The Girl from Greenland," which has some more adventurous chord progressions than Zieff's material. The later group with Urtreger adds two horns, alto saxophonist Jean Aldegon, and trombonist Benny Vasseur, which doesn't sound like a pickup group at all. The extra horns take some pressure off the leader, while the final piece, "In Memory of Dick" was contributed by Belgian saxophonist Bobby Jaspar (who would also die prematurely at a young age). If the Baker-Twardzik group had been able to work together for an extended period, it might have produced compelling music. This collection is enjoyable though it falls short of being essential. Long out of print and fetching ridiculous prices at auction, this music reappeared in a comprehensive boxed set of Baker's Barclay recordings that was issued in 2008.
© Ken Dryden /TiVo