When US producer Zev Feltman asked Frank Jochemsen of the Nederlands Jazz Archive if there were any interesting recordings of Chet Baker (1929 – 1988) on Dutch shelves, Jochemsen did not expect too much. Today 35 years ago the American jazz trumpeter died after falling from an Amsterdam hotel window. Poking around in the radio archives, Jochemsen nevertheless stumbled upon two interesting sessions recorded at VARA Studio 2 to be broadcast by KRO radio. Chet Baker spent the last years of his life on European soil without a permanent home or residence. Here, the restlessly wandering musician was taken more seriously than in his motherland. In the 1970s, he made records that varied in quality, sometimes not even appearing at all at an appointed time. On both 10 April 1979 and 9 November that year, however, Baker was in excellent form. There is nothing wrong with the quality of the recordings either.
During the first session, the trumpeter was accompanied by the international company of pianist Phil Markowitz, bassist Jean-Louis Rassinfosse and drummer Charles Rice. The remastered tapes fill the first three sides of the newly released double album Blue Room. The producer at the time was Edwin Rutten, who had to use all his diplomatic skills to get the headstrong trumpeter and his accompanists to play without pressure and in good harmony. They did not disappoint him in the least, Rutten reveals in the liner notes. Chet Baker could say much by using a few notes. When he improvised in a whisper, he created an almost sacred atmosphere.
The second session didn’t start smoothly. Baker was late and had not brought the promised sheet music for his accompanists pianist Frans Elsen, bassist Victor Kaihatu and drummer Eric Ineke. After the irritations about this had been massaged away by Rutten, Baker soloed, sang and scratched enthusiastically over the four songs he had selected. Then he called it a day: ‘I have sold you my time and my talent,’ said the trumpeter. ‘Then he disappeared again like a thief in the cold November night,’ Eric Ineke writes in the beautifully arranged booklet that accompanies this double album.