Bea’s Flat

As a companion to the Artt Frank-Chet Baker recommendation posted above, let’s listen tRuss Freeman, Chet Bakero something from Baker’s early work. Here’s what I wrote about “Bea’s Flat” in the notes for Mosaic’s box set The Complete Pacific Jazz Studio Recordings Of The Chet Baker Quartet With Russ Freeman (out of print).

A book of transcriptions of Baker’s solos on “Band Aid,” “No Ties,” “Maid in Mexico” and several other Freeman pieces was published not long after the original 10-inch Pacific Jazz LPs hit the market. Like hundreds of other aspiring trumpet players, I had a crack at them. I was able to make my way, laboriously, through most of the music, but “Bea’s Flat” destroyed me. ‘We strongly urge you in your studies of these works,’ the publisher wrote in the forward, ’ to play with the records in order to duplicate the nuances of Chet’s artistry. ’ Nuances; hell, I couldn’t get the melody line right, let alone the solo. Not at that tempo. This has to be one of the most devilishly ingenious blues lines ever written.

Looking through the discographical information for the Baker-Freeman sessions, I see that they recorded “Bea’s Flat” on my birthday. Nice present. But I’ve still never been able to play the line at that speed. The Mosaic box is long gone, but there is a CD with “Bea’s Flat” and other Baker-Freeman collaborations.

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  1. Terence Smith says

    Doug Ramsey probably had more luck trumpeting/imitating the feel of some of Chet Baker’s most simple solos from this Fifties period, which might be as good as anything, and say so much so simply and unaffectedly. For example, on Chet Baker Sings, the few trumpet notes on “Look for the Silver Lining” and “My Buddy” are little masterpieces of brevity and feeling.

    If I were a trumpet player, I think I’d try to play those.

    And wow, is Russ Freeman’s style equal to the task of accompanying the “famously pianoless” early Baker. Early Russ Freeman had a quality that was somehow equivalent to the first Horace Silver Trio sides, which were I think coming out on Blue Note at roughly the same period. Freeman was just as funky, in his own unique way.

    I do not have the Pacific Mosaic box Doug mentions above, but from the recordings I have heard, I sure wish I did. Another that stands out in memory is “The Love Nest,” with beautiful muted trumpet.

  2. says

    A gem-and-a-half. Baker at his most joyful best. Never misses a beat and Freeman is great foil to Chet’s brilliant improvising. Love this clip.