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Love For Sale by Chet Baker

After his various run-in’s in the 1960’s with the law, with drug dealers, with thugs who knocked his teeth out, with hospital personnel who mended his body Chet Baker somehow restarted his jazz career in the early seventies with the help of Dizzy Gillespie. After that, Baker was on the road to occupational recovery, though his drug habits remained with him until the end, perhaps because performing was his only means for generating income. And so, in the 1970’s, Baker started performing again, and in fact, he recorded some surprisingly successful albums on labels like A&M, Criss Cross and Steeplechase, especially considering the obstacles he continued to face throughout the rest of his life.

Wisely, proprietor Roué-Doudou Boicel taped Baker at his Rising Sun Celebrity Jazz Club on March 7, 1978, when Baker brought to Montreal his regular quartet of four or five years. In addition, Roger Rosenberg joined the group as saxophonist, very perceptive in his understanding of Baker’s music and his melodic style as they play in unison on songs like "Milestones." While it appears that Rosenberg’s playing of baritone sax is meant to recall Baker’s work with Gerry Mulligan, Rosenberg is equally effective on soprano sax when he and Baker play "Snowbound," as Rosenberg raises the temperature of the piece several notches over Baker’s cooler treatment.

As always, Baker sings. He starts the concert with an instrumental version of John Lewis’ "Milestones," meeting the audience’s expectations, though blowing nothing but air on several notes. The singing follows on "Oh, You Crazy Moon," Baker’s voice wan, a diminution of the untrained style that entranced listeners in the early 1950’s. Just as listeners may be considering the hour-long concert a throwback to Baker’s heights of popularity 25 years earlier, he and Rosenberg engage in a free version of "Love For Sale" that animates Baker in a more energetic four-minute-long improvisation that rarely refers to the melody itself, proof of Baker’s imagination and raw talent emerging once again when focused on the excitement of the music.

Baker continued to struggle with the self-destructive demons that continually tempted him for another decade. But Love For Sale provides one more example of Baker’s late-career performances as he continued to fascinate audiences with his music and with the puzzling charisma that he projected even as his appearance and health faded progressively and noticeably.

Additional Info

  • Artist / Group Name: Chet Baker
  • CD Title: Love For Sale
  • Genre: Cool Jazz
  • Year Released: 2005
  • Record Label: Just A Memory
  • Tracks: Milestones, Oh You Crazy Moon, There Will Never Be Another You, Snowbound, Love For Sale
  • Musicians: Chet Baker (trumpet, voice), Roger Rosenberg (soprano, tenor and baritone saxophones), Phil Markowitz (piano), Jon Burr (bass), Jeff Brillinger (drums)
  • Rating: Two Stars
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