Monday, January 23, 2012

Chet Baker and Archie Shepp


This track is attractive because the famously relaxed trumpeter Chet Baker is performing with Archie Shepp, who is an outstanding example of the experimental improvisation termed "free jazz". We have here a fascinating and exciting jam highlighting a brilliant practioner of a what we'd call a mellow, melodic style with an Avant Gard genius of the period. Shepp, of course, is fiery and unpredictable with what his solos will contain even in a context this comparatively conservative; I find it amazing to here him in a chart-driven, swinging context and realizing he can more than cut the mustard. He brings his own thing to it, his solos are his alone. Baker, to be sure, appears energized by Shepp's presence--his phrase remains hushed and frayed around the edges--there are few perfectly round notes in Baker's playing--but it is something else again when he double and triple times his riffs against the rhythm section. Baker's playing gets an unfair rap, I think. At his best he could do much more than many give him credit for and , when alert and prepared, was in perfect control of all his gifts.