Saturday, February 9, 2013

THE CHET BAKER QUARTET: FIRST RECORDINGS PART ONE


THE CHET BAKER QUARTET: FIRST RECORDINGS 
PART ONE

© 2013, James A. Harrod, Copyright Protected, All Rights Reserved

Jazz discography is not a static entity, it is constantly changing as new evidence emerges that modifies, changes and corrects existing data regarding musicians, tunes, dates and places.  One of the first modern jazz discographies was compiled by Jorgen Grunnet Jepsen over forty years ago.  He was assisted by jazz experts worldwide who contributed their knowledge and expertise.  The acknowledgement page below lists some of those contributors.


Jepsen did not list sources for individual entries, that would have been an impossible task adding lines of text to an already eight volume set that ran thousands of pages. Thus we will never know the source of the dates for Chet Baker’s first recordings for Pacific Jazz listed in Jepsen’s JAZZ RECORDS.


The July dates listed on page 177 of the first volume of Jepsen’s JAZZ RECORDS do not stand up to scrutiny if one examines the release dates of the recordings listed.  Chet Baker’s first release on the Pacific Jazz label was a 78 single, PJ-605 (THE LAMP IS LOW & MAID IN MEXICO), that was reviewed in the May 6, 1953 issue of Down Beat magazine.  The two tunes on PJ-605 were included on Chet’s first 10” LP for Pacific jazz, PJLP-3, that was reviewed in the July 29, 1953 edition of Down Beat.  The two reviews clearly establish that the recording dates listed in Jepsen are not possible.  The dates would continue to be accepted within the jazz community and were repeated in the Mosaic Records release of the Chet Baker Quartet Studio Recordings in 1987.


The Mosaic discography grouped the first four tunes together listing Chet Baker, Russ Freeman, Bob Whitlock and Bobby White as the original quartet members as credited on the back liner notes of PJLP-3.


(© Down Beat, Maher Publications)

The matrix numbers offer some clues regarding when the recordings took place.  Dick Bock had acquired the ABCs of record production during his two year tenure with Albert Marx at Discovery Records.  Marx assigned a sequential number to every tune recorded with a dash one, dash two, suffix to distinguish individual takes of a tune.  The same series of numbers would be assigned to each side of a vinyl release as a matrix number.  Bock copied this practice, at least initially, as he began to produce records under his own label.  The first Pacific Jazz 78 single, PJ-601, with BERNIE’S TUNE (matrix 206-3) and LULLABY OF THE LEAVES (matrix 209-1) indicate that the third and first take were used respectively on this release.  If Bock began his numbering system with 201 these were the sixth and ninth tunes recorded by the new label. The Gerry Mulligan Quartet recorded a series of tunes at an October 15, 1952 recording session and Bock assigned matrix numbers 218 through 223 to the 78 singles released with those tunes.







(All PJ labels © EMI Capitol Music)



The Jepsen discography lists matrices 224 through 227 as being assigned to the first Chet Baker recording session that produced ISN’T IT ROMANTIC [224], THE LAMP IS LOW [225], THIS TIME THE DREAM’S ON ME [226] and MAID IN MEXICO [227].  The next group of matrix numbers assigned to 78 single releases are 235 through 238 for a Mulligan Quartet session with Lee Konitz recorded in January 1953.  If Bock assigned these matrix numbers sequentially this would indicate that the Chet Baker recording session occurred between October of 1952 and January of 1953.




(All PJ labels © EMI Capitol Music)



This puzzle was further unraveled when Gordon Jack interviewed Bob Whitlock in preparation for a series of interviews with jazz musicians that would be published as FIFTIES JAZZ TALK: An Oral Perspective, Studies in Jazz , No. 47, Scarecrow Press, © 2004.  In the interview Whitlock recalled that he and Gerry Mulligan had a falling out just before Christmas in 1952. 

“I stayed with Gerry until the night before Christmas Eve 1952. We had just returned from the group's second stint at the Blackhawk, and I remember going out to Chet's car during intermission at the Haig. A police cruiser came by our parked car in time to see sparks flying from a furtively lit joint tossed out of the window. One of the officers turned out to be from Chet's home state of Oklahoma, and he told him that if there was no more weed in the car, he would release us with a warning. Chalk that up for male bonding, I thought, but when they searched the car, they found two full lids in the door panel. We were summarily arrested and spent the Yuletide in jail, during which Chet took all the weight and had me cut loose. This incident led to a bitter confrontation with Gerry in the dressing room at the Haig, where he decreed that Chet and I were bad news for each other. By this time our personal relationship had deteriorated beyond redemption, but up to this point we had never threatened each other physically. I guess we were bluffing, because it all ended with a childish exchange of "You're fired!" and "I quit!" What can I say? Boys will be boys! My heroin habit was way out of control by this time, and some concerned relatives intervened. Three of my closest cousins were visiting for the holidays and came to the Haig to surprise me, but they were horrified at my condition and nearly kidnapped me. A few days later I was on my way back with them to my birthplace in Utah, and although it was cold turkey and tough for a while, I stayed there for nearly a year and got my health back.”

Clearly Bob Whitlock could not have been on any recording sessions with Chet Baker in 1953 as listed in Jepsen’s JAZZ RECORD. Chet’s first recording session that included Bob Whitlock had to have taken place sometime in late 1952.  Such were my conclusions for the liner notes to accompany the first volume in a series of three CDs of live recordings of the Chet Baker Quartet released in the spring of 2000.


The producer, Michael Cuscuna, emailed me several months later with the news that a contact with access to AFM Local 47 files had confirmed that Chet’s first recording session took place on December 15, 1952 at Gold Star Studios.  The same contact advised that there were no records on file for July 24 & 27, 1953 for Chet Baker, but there was a session listed for April 17, 1953 for Chet Baker and a single session on July 30, 1953. The April date would be the additional recording session with Carson Smith and Larry Bunker performing IMAGINATION, EASY TO LOVE, RUSS JOB and BATTER UP that filled out the first 10” LP, PJLP-3.  

The December 15, 1952 recording session at Gold Star Studios was never acknowledged by Dick Bock.  The closest he came to admitting that he had recorded Chet Baker as a leader while Chet was still part of the Gerry Mulligan Quartet was in a letter published in the May 1953 issue of Metronome magazine.

(© Metronome Magazine)

Photographer William Claxton was not on staff yet and no photographic evidence of the first Chet Baker session exists.  The Claxton photo of Chet on the cover of PJLP-3 was taken at The Haig.  The original photo shows Chet and Gerry together and was used on the cover of the Mosaic set release of the Gerry Mulligan Quartet & Tentette recordings.  The graphic designer of the PJLP-3 cover, John Brandt, superimposed a cutout of Chet among other graphic design elements.

(© EMI Capitol Music)

The European release of PJLP-3 on English Vogue (LDE.045) and French Swing (M 33.308) substituted WINTER WONDERLAND in place of THE LAMP IS LOW.  Both releases were available in the fall of 1953 and introduce another quandary regarding recording date and personnel. Extended play versions were also released, English Vogue (EPV 1007), French Vogue (EPL 7039) and Swedish Karusell (KSEP 3011) further complicating dates and personnel. These releases will be discussed in Part Two.

© 2013, James A. Harrod, Copyright Protected, All Rights Reserved


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