Rava, Fresu, Bollani, Pietropaoli, Gatto: Shades of Chet
Fonè 194 SACD
Rava, Fresu, Bollani, Pietropaoli, Gatto
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Review by Mark Werlin - April 7, 2019
Shades of Chet is a new SACD release sourced from an analogue master tape of a recording session made in 1999. In a sense, it revisits the original function of DSD, which was intended as an archiving tool to preserve analogue masters in a digital format that (its proponents argued) closely replicated the sound character of the original.
The reissue of this set, which, to my knowledge, was not widely distributed in the US, preserves a superb analogue master tape, and shares with a wider listenership an outstanding performance by preeminent Italian jazz musicians.
It's ironic that Chet Baker, one of the most self-destructive and self-centered personalities in jazz culture, left behind in the wreckage of his life a collection of performances that so profoundly affect listeners and fellow musicians. In their liner notes, trumpet players Enrico Rava and Paolo Fresu speak of the impact on their playing of Baker's poetry and emotional expressiveness.
For this session, Rava and Fresu selected nine tunes drawn from Baker's early recordings with the Gerry Mulligan group through his late-1970s large ensemble performances arranged by Don Sebesky. The use of two trumpets or flugelhorns, open and muted, demanded an unusually careful balance between the brass voices. The soloists, a generation apart in age, have enough differences in timbre and similarities in phrasing to mold the set of song-form pieces into an affecting musical statement.
Chet Baker's trumpet playing and vocal performances are inextricable—two instruments with one common voice. Pianist Stefano Bolani and bassist Enzo Pietropaoli are both well-equipped to play in a lyrical, cantabile style that evokes Baker’s unique vocal character. Drummer Roberto Gatto offers sympathetic support to the horn soloists and adds propulsive energy to the rhythm section.
The original recording was engineered with close attention to the positioning of the instruments in a studio acoustic. Piano sound is vividly three-dimensional, and the upright bass has unexaggerated warmth and presence. Fonè Records chief Giulio Cesare Ricci's transfer to SACD preserves the analogue character of the original.
A translation from Signor Ricci's technical notes:
"The mastering for this Super Audio CD was done by Giulio Cesare Ricci using the entirely analogue and tube "Signoricci" system. The master was realized by sending to a dCS A/D DSD converter the analogue master recorded on an Ampex ATR 102, 2 track, 1/2 inch, 30 ips."
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