As a companion to the Artt Frank-Chet Baker recommendation posted above, let’s listen to 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.