Image Entertainment presents
Chet Baker Live at Ronnie Scott's London (1986)
"Will I recognize
The light in her eyes
That no other eyes reveal?
Or will I pass her by
And never even know
That she was my ideal?"- Chet Baker, singing My Ideal
Stars: Chet Baker
Other Stars: Michael Grailler, Riccardo del Fra, Van Morrison, Elvis Costello
MPAA Rating: Not RatedRun Time: 00h:58m:24s
Release Date: 2007-01-09
DVD ReviewTo look at Chet Baker's aging face is to see the ravages of time, the documentary evidence of what hard living will do to you. It's hard to look at any images of the trumpet player, especially from later in his life, and not think of Let's Get Lost, Bruce Weber's brutal 1988 documentary about Baker's life and hard times; even just listening to Baker's music conjures up some of the roughness of his life. Baker was a dangerously pretty young man with a horn, singled out early for greatness by Charlie Parker, and spent much of his adult life battling addiction. Through almost all of it, the honey-sweet tones of his trumpet could be intoxicating, and more than occasionally Baker would sing lead as well. He didn't have much of a trained voice, but something in his reedy vocals captured a sense of both possibility and loss, and his renditions of standards could be ethereal.
This DVD is a brief, one-hour set from late in Baker's life—it was recorded in London in 1986, and Baker died two years later. He'd become craggy looking and, in interview snippets between songs, a little cranky, bemoaning that there was no longer much of an audience for jazz in the United States. And his voice, always thin, by this time sounded badly battered—his off-key scatting on Just Friends, for instance, can be trying. But my oh my, old Chet could still blow that horn. Cole Porter's Love For Sale features some of his most precise playing, and My Ideal, on which he both plays trumpet and sings, is transformed into an elegy of disillusionment.
Baker is well supported here by Riccardo del Fra on bass and Michel Grailler on piano; they're given appropriate opportunities to showcase their own skills, but there are a few too many intrusive, unnecessary arty shots of them. (Also, the cutaway shots to the audience show off some of the unfortunate fashion trends of the 1980s. Crocket and Tubbs, what thou hast wrought.) A couple of Baker's notable fans take the stage briefly and handle the vocal chores—Van Morrison clutches a lyric sheet for Send in the Clowns, and though he still manages to go up on the words a couple of times, he actually brings a refreshing and dour energy to this hideously overplayed song. And Elvis Costello (who also serves as Baker's interviewer in the clips between songs) takes the mike on the final three songs, truncated covers of The Very Thought of You, You Don't Know What Love Is (a Baker vocal staple back in the day) and I'm a Fool to Want You. It's not a paradigmatic Baker set, but it's representative of him in late career, and it's a sinuous hour of jazz.
Rating for Style: B
Rating for Substance: B+
|Aspect Ratio||1.33:1 - Full Frame|
|Original Aspect Ratio||yes|
Image Transfer Review: The transfer looks muddy and dumpy, and as if almost no thought went into the video presentation. Contrast is way too high as well.
Image Transfer Grade: C
Audio Transfer Review: Limited dynamic range, and a sometimes oppressive mix, heavy on the room tone at the expense of the music.
Audio Transfer Grade: C
Disc ExtrasStatic menu with music
Music/Song Access with 12 cues and remote access
Extras Review: Only chapter stops.
Extras Grade: D-
Final CommentsA strong sixty minutes of jazz from Chet Baker late in his career, featuring some brief ruminations on his life and cameos from some high-profile friends.
Jon Danziger 2007-02-22