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CHET BAKER & THE SOUND OF SINCERITY 

Clockwise (L-R) bassist Jean-Louis Rassinfosse, Chet Baker, Dmitri Matheny at the Chet Baker Memorial in Amsterdam

 

The first Chet Baker recording I ever heard was not one of his celebrated cool jazz hits from back when he looked like James Dean and played like Miles Davis. 

No, I fell in love with Chet in the 1980s, long after his heyday, when he was struggling to play on new dentures and looked more like Clint Eastwood at the end of Pale Rider. Chet was living in Europe at the time, and the album that captivated me, Crystal Bells, showcased his working Belgian trio with guitarist Philip Catherine and bassist Jean-Louis Rassinfosse. 

It was that sound that got me. Chet’s warm tone and halting, yet lyrical lines, were imbued with a fragile, searching quality that hit me like a bullseye right in my melancholy teenage heart. 

I must have listened to that album a thousand times. 

The drummerless trio provided the perfect balance of interactivity and space for the old explorer, who seemed to be finding his way back from some kind of profound loss.  At the time, I didn’t know anything about Chet’s troubled history, but it was all there, laid bare, in the music. 

I felt as if I had found the secret key to a soulful world of authenticity and deep feeling. 

Chet died a few years later and my appreciation for him only grew.

When I had the opportunity to work with Jean-Louis Rassinfosse in the Netherlands, I told him how much I loved Crystal Bells.

Jean-Louis smiled broadly. “Chet didn’t even have a horn, you know,” he said. 

“He’d long ago sold it for drug money. But he kept the mouthpiece in his pocket.” 

The veteran bassist then described their routine, how each morning they would call ahead to the next little village on tour and invite all the brass players in the area to come down to the club with their horns. 

"At sound check there would be this little row of open instrument cases on the stage," he said. "Chet would go down the line, try out a few different horns, pick one, and that would be the instrument he played that night!

“Sometimes trompet, sometimes kornet or bugel, every night a different instrument,” Jean-Louis said. “But he always sounded like Chet.

“It was that sound, that same sound, always,” Jean-Louis marveled. “And every night, somebody would ask, ‘How do you get that amazing tone? What kind of instrument is that?’ as if the horn itself was somehow magical.

"But it was just Chet. It was all Chet.” 

I love this story and 100% believe it to be true, as it confirms my long-standing belief in music as a mystical force, and in master musicians like Baker as sorcerers. The embouchure and equipment are important, but they are secondary. What matters most is your intention. 

"Get your mind right," Art Farmer once advised. "You are the instrument. That thing that you're holding is just an amplifier."

“It isn’t the horn,” John Coltrane famously said. “You can play a shoestring if you’re sincere.”

FROM THE ARCHIVES 

On This Day

 

March 1, 1996

5/4 Magazine

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By Joseph Murphy

 

Sometimes, in distinguishing stylists and recordings, it's the little things that stand out...more

 

March 1, 1996

JazzTimes Magazine

Dmitri Matheny Red Reflections

By Jim Ferguson

 

With the exception of drummer Alan Jones, who plays with David Friesen...more

 


March 1, 1998

Workshop @ The JazzSchool

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Part 1, Publicity: Ann Dyer, Merrilee Trost, Jon Yanofsky

Berkeley, California

 

March 1, 1998

Concert @ The Jazzschool

Bill Douglass & Friends
Berkeley, California

 

March 1, 1999

Jazz at Pearl's 

World Premiere: Savannah Panorama

Contemporary Jazz Orchestra
San Francisco, California

 

March 1, 2000

Monterey Herald

Christmas Tunes in March

By Mac McDonald

 

I never thought I’d be listening to a Christmas album in the beginning of spring...more


March 1, 2000

Oakland Tribune

Flugelhornist Dmitri Matheny Pays Tribute To His Mentor, Art Farmer

By Christina Eng

 

Dmitri Matheny got his first instrument, a trumpet, when he was 9...more

 

March 1, 2003

Concert & Workshop @ The Jazzschool

Amina Figarova International Band

Berkeley, California

FROM THE ARCHIVES 

On This Day

November 24, 1988

New Voice Jazz Sextet

1369 Jazz Club

Cambridge, Massachusetts

Dmitri Matheny, flugelhorn

Mark Gross, alto saxophone

Jack Wright, tenor saxophone

Mitch Hampton, piano

Peter Herbert, bass

Hans Schuman, drums

 

November 24, 2001

Amina Figarova Septet

The Music Village

Brussels, Belgium

Amina Figarova, piano

Bart Platteau, flute

Kurt Van Herck, tenor saxophone

Caroline Breuer, alto saxophone

Dmitri Matheny, flugelhorn

Wiro Mahieu, bass

Pieter Bast, drums

FROM THE ARCHIVES  

On This Day

November 21, 1998

Crown Project - Gershwin on Monarch

In-Store Appearance @ Borders

Greenville, Texas

An Evening with Sandi Patty

Meyerson Symphony Center

Dallas, Texas

Sandi Patty with

Dmitri Matheny, flugelhorn

Tim Davis, voice

Mark Gasbarro, piano

The Dallas Symphony Orchestra

 

November 21-22, 2002

Amina Figarova International Band

L'Inouï Café-Concert-Théâtre

Redange sur Attert, Luxembourg

Amina Figarova, piano

Bart Platteau, flutes

Dmitri Matheny, flugelhorn

Ruth Davies, bass

Chris 'Buckshot' Strik, drums

FROM THE ARCHIVES  

On This Day

November 21, 1998

Crown Project - Gershwin on Monarch

In-Store Appearance @ Borders

Greenville, Texas

An Evening with Sandi Patty

Meyerson Symphony Center

Dallas, Texas

Sandi Patty with

Dmitri Matheny, flugelhorn

Tim Davis, voice

Mark Gasbarro, piano

The Dallas Symphony Orchestra

 

November 21-22, 2002

Amina Figarova International Band

L'Inouï Café-Concert-Théâtre

Redange sur Attert, Luxembourg

Amina Figarova, piano

Bart Platteau, flutes

Dmitri Matheny, flugelhorn

Ruth Davies, bass

Chris 'Buckshot' Strik, drums

FROM THE ARCHIVES 

20 Years Ago Today

November 17, 1992

SOMA Quartet

New Performance Gallery

San Francisco, California

November 17, 2001

Amina Figarova International Band

Pinehill Studio

Leersum, Netherlands

November 17, 2002

Amina Figarova Septet

Jazz in Merz - Theater de Stoep

Spijkenisse, Netherlands

November 17, 2005

Amina Figarova International Band

The Palace Crowne Plaza

Brussels, Belgium

FROM THE ARCHIVES  

On This Day

November 16, 1991

SOMA Quartet

Home of Governor Jerry Brown

San Francisco, California

November 16, 2001

Amina Figarova International Band

L'Inouï Café-Concert-Théâtre

Redange sur Attert, Luxembourg

November 15-16, 2005

Amina Figarova International Band

L'Inouï Café-Concert-Théâtre

Redange sur Attert, Luxembourg

FROM THE ARCHIVES 

On This Day

November 14, 1986

New Voice Jazz Sextet

Northeastern University

Boston, Massachusetts

Dmitri Matheny, trumpet & flugelhorn

Mark Gross, alto saxophone

Jack Wright, tenor saxophone

Mitch Hampton, piano

Volker Nahrmann, bass

Hans Schuman, drums

Ron Della Chiesa, master of ceremonies

 

November 14, 2003

Amina Figarova International Band

The Music Village

Brussels, Belgium

Amina Figarova, piano

Bart Platteau, flutes

Dmitri Matheny, flugelhorn

Ruth Davies, bass

Chris 'Buckshot' Strik, drums

FROM THE ARCHIVES 

25 Years Ago Today

November 10, 1987

True Colors Big Band

1369 Jazz Club

Cambridge, Massachusetts

Directed by

Ken Schaphorst & Rob Scheps

Anders Bostrom, Kenny Brooks, 

Tony Devaney, John Dirac, Wendy Forgie, Jim Harp,

Curtis Hasselbring, Donny McCaslin, John Medeski,

Dmitri Matheny, Jim Odell, Mike Peipman, Josh Roseman,

Mike Sim, Joe Stoebenau, Dave Valdez, Wesley Wirth

 

November 10, 2001

Amina Figarova International Band

Jazzpodium

Dordrecht, Netherlands

Amina Figarova, piano

Bart Platteau, flutes

Dmitri Matheny, flugelhorn

Ruth Davies, bass

Chris "Buckshot" Strik, drums

FROM THE ARCHIVES 

 On This Day

 

November 7, 2002

Denise Jannah & Amina Figarova

Black Magic Woman Festival @ Pepsi Theater

Amsterdam, Netherlands



 

Denise Jannah, voice

Amina Figarova, piano

Bart Platteau, flutes

Dmitri Matheny, flugelhorn

Ruth Davies, bass

Chris "Buckshot" Strik, drums

 

November 7, 2003

Amina Figarova Septet

Pannonica

Den Haag, Netherlands

Amina Figarova, piano

Bart Platteau, flutes

Dmitri Matheny, flugelhorn

Tom Beek, alto saxophone

Kurt van Herck, tenor saxophone

Ruth Davies, bass

Chris "Buckshot" Strik, drums