There are arguably few that knew Chet Baker better than Riccardo del Fra. He has been playing the double bass on his side between 1979 and 88, the years that many call the most interesting and mature in Bakers career as a composer, arranger and band leader. In these nine years, he recorded twelve albums with the trumpeter, and has seen all ups and downs in his personal life as well as in his virtuosity as a musician.
Time passed by, Riccardo del Fra settled in Paris and became a reference name in the french Jazz scene. Since 2004 he heads the section for Jazz and improvisation on the conservatoire nationale supérieure de musique et de dance in Paris, which means that he knows and influences a great part of the young French Jazz talent.
His 2014 release “My Chet my Song” is not just another homage to Chet Baker. It is a poetic and emotional re-interpretation of some of Bakers compositions, accompanied with some eclectic pieces of Del Fra’s own writing. For the recording, he works with the risings stars of the French Jazz Scene. Above all Airelle Besson, who impresses with a series of smooth improvisations and solos on the trumpet and the bugle. Together with Perrick Pédron on the saxophone and Bruno Ruder on the piano, she reinvents Bakers melodies in an unprecedented manner. A fine example of how Saxophone, Double Bass, Trumpet and the Piano retake Bakers ideas is showcased in this section of “For all we know”, in itself a song that has been written by Fred Coots and covered by Chet Baker. All songs have been recorded with the Filmorchester Babelsberg.
Unsurprisingly, Del Fra’s bass play takes a leading role in the arrangements of most songs on the record, carrying the melodies with a smooth but solid baseline foundation not often seen in Jazz. Del Fra even takes us into some unexpected surprise moments, like in “I’m a fool to want you”, when after a culminant fortissimo the listener is left alone with nothing more than a mystic but firm bass line, waiting for Ruders’ Piano solo to set in. Magical moments like these make up the real essence of this record.
I consider “My Chet my Song” as one of the most interesting Jazz releases in 2014. Enjoy it now on contemporaryjazzclub.com