Elemental Music, the transatlantic label devoted to rare and unissued archival jazz releases, will issue Chet Baker Trio Live in Paris, a three-LP set of expansive, lyrical ‘80s live performances by the great trumpeter-vocalist, as an exclusive Record Store Day package on April 23.

There will be a 2-CD set deluxe package and digital download available for pre-order on Bandcamp that will be available on April 30th.

CHET BAKER TRIO – LIVE IN PARIS – The Radio France Recordings
(Limited 3LP Gatefold Edition & 2CD Digipack Edition) – RSD 2022



The collection, also due as a two-CD set on April 30, will feature performances by Baker’s drumless trios, captured in Stereo by Radio France in 1983 and 1984. Both configurations will feature a deluxe booklet with essays by producer and “jazz detective” Zev Feldman, journalist-author Ashley Kahn (author of Kind of Blue: The Making of the Miles Davis Masterpiece and A Love Supreme: The Story of John Coltrane’s Signature Album), French journalist-photographer Franck Bergerot, and Pascal Rozat of Ina France; and interviews with Riccardo Del Fra and Dominique Lemerle, the bassists on the ’83 and ’84 concert dates, respectively, and pianist Richie Beirach, also a former Baker sideman.

The set’s producer Zev Feldman – a co-founder of Elemental Music with Jordi Soley and Carlos Agustín, who served as executive producers — says, “It’s an honour to work with the Chet Baker Estate to release these incredible recordings officially for the very first time. Personally, I’m an enormous fan of the instrumentation of the Chet Baker Trio here: trumpet, bass and piano. It’s a wonderful setting that really gives the musicians room to stretch. I’m glad that fans will finally be able to hear this music in an official presentation for the first time.”

Baker exploded onto the American jazz scene in the 1950s as the trumpeter in baritone saxophonist Gerry Mulligan’s quartet and became a star in his own right as a leader, and also garnered a pop audience with his vocal recordings, at Pacific Jazz. His career went into eclipse after a series of personal and professional setbacks in the late ‘60s, but he reestablished himself in the ‘70s and ‘80s via a series of live performances and recordings in Europe.

The musician is heard in remarkable form on Chet Baker in Paris, recorded in stereo by Radio France at La Esplanade de La Défense (July 17, 1983) and Le Petit Opportun (February 7, 1984). Both concerts are distinguished by the dazzling playing of the virtuosic pianist Michel Graillier, who performed regularly with Baker’s combos from 1977 until Baker’s death in 1988. Graillier died at 58 in 2003 following surgery for an ulcer.

Kahn calls Chet Baker Trio Live in Paris “a rare window on a significant moment in Baker’s history.” He adds that the set “fits into this very special window of time when Baker was more settled and consistently supported than almost any other time in his life. One can hear it on the music collected herein: Baker playing relaxed, understated, at times speaking to an appreciative audience….A very personal kind of jazz — that’s exactly what Chet Baker was playing every night in Paris at the time, and what is on this new collection.”

Rozat notes that the music Baker was making would have been lost if not for Claude Carrière’s 1982 institution of Jazz Club, a weekly Radio France live broadcast from Paris’ clubs. He writes, “All of France found itself invited to share the unique ambience of these venues, which in the corporeal world were only within reach of a select, happy few…. Jazz Club’s golden age was unquestionably those years from the ‘80s to the ‘90s, when the scene in the jazz clubs of Paris arguably reached its zenith.”

Bassist Del Fra says of Baker’s trio format, ‘The instrumentation here — piano, bass and trumpet — is unique. When people asked Chet, ‘Why you don’t have drums?’ He would say, ‘Because we don’t need them. It’s true.’” Of Baker’s longtime collaborator Graillier, he adds, “Michel clearly learned a lot playing with Chet. He was a fan of McCoy Tyner, but also Bill Evans, and I think he found a wa­y to find a balance between these two great artists to find his own way, to be very lyrical, and at the same time an attentive accompanist. Chet liked Michel very much.”

Recalling his experience in the unusual three-piece lineup, Lemerle recalls, “Chet used to say that he liked to play with either a very good drummer or no drummer at all! This instrumentation gives the bassist the responsibility of being the main rhythmic player. Playing with Chet in this configuration didn’t pose a particular challenge. I had listened extensively to his drum-less trios, notably the one with bassist Niels-Henning Ørsted Pedersen and guitarist Doug Raney. I knew the book and I was steeped into his concept.”

Pianist Beirach’s recollection of a ‘70s date he played with Baker in a tough Paris club calls up the universal impact the musician had on his audiences: “The front two rows were all women and gay guys. In the back were a lot of big men, standing. What Chet’s playing is so touching, it just goes right to your heart. The women are weeping, most of them, and the gay guys, right? They’re weeping, but they’re smiling. They’re happy because they’re moved. The guys are looking down at their shoes because they’re too embarrassed to show that they’re crying. Me too. He rips your heart out because he’s a serious storyteller. It’s not English or French or anything. It’s beyond language.”

Looking back at one memorable Baker performance at Le Petit Opportun, journalist Bergerot writes, “It was as if Chet was playing the trio all by himself, sharing his sense of space with his fellow musicians, fully expressing himself, melting his being with the music, but without showing any sign of ego.