THE CHET BAKER QUARTET: FIRST RECORDINGS
© James A. Harrod, Copyright Protected, All Rights Reserved
The first CHET BAKER session listed in Jepson’s JAZZ RECORDS on page 177 has vexed discographers since its appearance in print in 1965 crediting Red Mitchell on the first Chet Baker Quartet recording session:
CHET BAKER QUARTET:
Chet Baker (tp), Russ Freeman (p), Red Mitchell (b), Bobby White (dr)
LA July 24, 1953
PJ224 Isn’t It Romantic Pacific Jazz EP4-4, LP-3, JWC 504, Vg(E) VA160119
Hans Henrik Lerfeldt and Thorbjorn Sjogren published a discography devoted exclusively to Chet Baker in 1985, CHET - The Discography of Chesney Henry Baker, Tiderne Skifter Publishers, Copenhagen, Denmark.
CHET BAKER QUARTET:
Chet Baker (tp), Russ Freeman (p), Red Mitchell or Bob Whitlock (b), Bobby White (dr)
LA July 24, 1953
PJ224 Isn’t It Romantic Pacific Jazz EP4-4, LP-3, JWC 504, Vg(E) VA160119, Swing M 33308, Kar KSEP 3009
The expanded entry in Lerfeldt and Sjogren on page 7 includes two additional entries for releases on French Swing and Swedish Karusell that presumably held some documentation supporting the appearance of Red Mitchell on bass. Whereas Jepsen had listed Red Mitchell on bass on Isn’t It Romantic, Lerfeldt and Sjogren suggested that there was some doubt and modified their entry to include "or Bob Whitlock." Each of these releases will be examined below.
The liner note credit on EP4-4 clearly identifies Bob Whitlock as bassist on Isn’t It Romantic, The Lamp Is Low, This Time The Dream’s On Me and Maid In Mexico.
Once again the back liner notes of PJLP-3 clearly identify Bob Whitlock as bassist on Isn’t It Romantic, The Lamp Is Low, This Time The Dream’s On Me and Maid In Mexico.
JWC 504 was a compilation of Rodgers & Hart tunes entitled RODGERS & HART GEMS, however Pacific Jazz made an error and Isn’t It Romantic is not in this collection. The second track on side two of JWC 504 is The Lamp Is Low, not Isn’t It Romantic as listed on the label and liner notes.
The notes on COOL BAKER, VOL. 1 (K18P 9259) correctly identify Bob Whitlock on bass on Isn’t It Romantic, The Lamp Is Low, This Time The Dream’s On Me and Maid In Mexico.
Vg(E) VA160119 was an English Vogue reissue of RODGERS & HART GEMS with the same cover and liner notes, and the same incorrectly identified version of The Lamp Is Low.
Swing M. 33.308 was advertised in the September 1953 issue of Jazz Hot magazine as being available along with three ten inch LP releases of the Gerry Mulligan Quartet from Pacific Jazz and Fantasy masters.
Another ad in the October 1953 issue of Jazz Hot listed The Chet Baker Quartet album along with other releases on Vogue labels. The album was reviewed in the same issue of Jazz Hot where the reviewer noted some of the tunes had been incorrectly labeled.
The label of side two of Swing M. 33.308 (matrix LP-405) clearly identifies Bob Whitlock as bassist on this track, Isn’t It Romantic, along with Bobby White on drums. Lerfeldt and Sjogren do not list an English Vogue 10” LP that was released in the fall of 1953 at the same time that the Swing LP was released. In fact, the two albums were manufactured from the same stampers and bear identical matrix numbers. The UK album got the matrix numbers and the labels matched.
Mike Nevard’s liner notes and the label identify Winter Wonderland among the tunes, and Bob Whitlock is once again listed as bassist on this tune as well as Isn’t It Romantic.
The labels on Karusell KLP1 pictured above are reversed, perhaps an error that occurred on the production run that included this copy of the album. Karusell used the same matrix numbers that Dick Bock had assigned to PJLP-3. The Lamp Is Low is not on this Swedish pressing either, it is Winter Wonderland.
The last release noted by Lerfeldt and Sjogren on page 7 of their CHET discography is a Swedish EP, Chet Baker Quartet, Vol. 1, Karusell KSEP 3009. Whitlock is credited on the label as the bass player on Isn’t it Romantic.
Based on the evidence presented on the above releases that Lerfeldt and Sjogren listed in their discography as supporting the presence of Red Mitchell on Isn’t it Romantic, the logical conclusion is that Red Mitchell was not on this recording.
Karusell released a second EP featuring the Chet Baker Quartet, KSEP 3011. The copy of this release in the author’s collection has a piece of white tape pasted over the title on the cover as well as the title on the EP. Based on other releases this title was most likely labeled as The Lamp Is Low, but the previous owner correctly identified the tune as Winter Wonderland. The label lists Bob Whitlock as playing on this track.
Previous research has established that Bob Whitlock was present on the first recording session of the Chet Baker Quartet at Gold Star Studios on December 15, 1952 when the four tunes included on PJLP-3 were recorded. Shortly after that session Bob Whitlock and Gerry Mulligan had a falling out just before Christmas that resulted in Bob Whitlock leaving the Gerry Mulligan Quartet and returning to Utah with his cousins where he remained until the fall of 1953 when he returned to Los Angeles. He did not rejoin the Chet Baker Quartet at that time. Carson Smith had replaced Whitlock in April of 1953 and would remain with Chet through the balance of 1953 and most of 1954.
Part Three will examine additional releases of Winter Wonderland that tend to support the premise that this tune was recorded at the December 15, 1952 session with Bob Whitlock, not an October 1953 session with Joe Mondragon and Shelly Manne.