When Chet entered the Studio Pathé-Magellan on October 25th, only one member of his original accompanying trio was still present: pianist Dick Twardzik had died of an overdose, and drummer Peter Littman had returned home after selling his kit for whatever it would fetch. Jimmy Bond and his contrabass, however, were both still there, and in the ensuing octet session Chet’s melodic gifts were magnified by (remarkable) scores penned by Pierre Michelot – Chet, Dinah – and Christian Chevalier (Vline). The three pieces were mini-concertos, and the trumpeter loved them so much that he decided to do them again back in America … but not so successfully. On November 28th Chet went back into the same studio, this time with Raymond Fol on piano, Benoît Quersin on bass and Jean-Louis Viale on drums. They recorded two improvisations: the first was based on a 1932 standard from Howard Dietz and Arthur Schwartz, “Alone Together”, while the second began with “Exitus”, a composition written by one of Baker’s friends, Phil Urso. The performances are among the most beautiful that Chet produced during this period, along with “Chekeeta” – or Chik-Etah – and “How about You?” which put the seal on a partnership that had first come to light at the Club Saint-Germain, temporarily rechristened for the occasion: »Every Saturday and Sunday afternoon from 16h30 to 19h30 at the Barclay’s Club – 13 rue Saint-Benoît, Paris – Bobby Jaspar Quintet with American trumpeter Chet Baker«, read the sign. The format was stylistically ideal, leading Chet to abandon the quartet format he’d preferred up until then. To respect his next bookings, Chet had to get a stable band together, and as his pianist he chose Raph Schecroun – later known as Errol Parker – who was himself replaced by Francy Boland. Alongside him were bassist Eddie de Haas, who’d previously been with Martial Solal and Henri Renaud (the latter, in the adventure, also lost his regular drummer, Charles Saudrais, who was just seventeen. According to Jean-Louis Chautemps, »When Bobby Jaspar couldn’t do it or just wanted too much, they looked for someone cheaper; and that was me. There wasn’t really an audition: we were in the Tabou, I played with Chet, he said OK and, two days later, we found ourselves in Reykjavik, Iceland.« The tune “Tasty Pudding” written by Al Cohn and “Anticipated Blues”, one of the rare pieces Chet claimed to have written, were in the repertoire played by this last Baker-led formation on the Old Continent.
Both pieces, once again, moved Pierre Michelot to pass judgement: “With ordinary means, Chet managed to play phrases of extraordinary beauty with simplicity and clarity.”
Once In A While