Live In London Volume II

“Polka Dots and Moonbeams”


In his later years, Chet Baker resided in Europe and gigged there almost exclusively. Fortunately, some of those performances were captured for posterity, as was the case with sets recorded at the Canteen Club in London in 1983. After an initial 2016 release of material from those dates, the Ubuntu Music Group follows with Live in London, Volume II, which once again finds the trumpeter in the company of the John Horler Trio, with whom he played a six-night engagement at the club. Baker’s precipitous slide into drug addiction is well-documented, including the physical insult to his embouchure after a 1966 beating that left him with broken teeth and forced him to learn to play with dentures and switch to flugelhorn. But he battled back, and the emotional intensity with which he played and sang was increasingly heartbreaking in subsequent decades. Baker is in fine if fragile shape at the Canteen Club, navigating a set of ballad standards such as “My Ideal,” “Stella by Starlight”  and “Just Friends,” with sensitive backing from pianist Horler, bassist Jim Richards and Tony Mann. The group takes a lovely, unrushed amble through “Polka Dots and Moonbeams,” in which Baker is tender and ruminative, offering listeners a cathartic experience rather than a depressing one. Baker died five years later, at the age of 58.

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