Welcome to the Retro Chet Quartet web site
The quartet was formed in the summer of 2017 to mark the 30th anniversary of Chet Baker’s Last Night in Tokyo Concert. If you have never listened to it, this is one of Chet Baker’s best recordings from a live show with Harold Danko on piano, Hein Van De Geyn on double bass and John Engells on drums. We ran the show twice at the Bulls Head in Barnes and had a great time working to get as close as we could to the sound and feel of the original recording.
This year we have used Chet Baker source recordings from studio sessions and concerts from 1955 onward up to Chet’s final concert in Hanover on April 28 1988, just two weeks before his tragic death in Amsterdam. We ran the show for the first time at The Queen Charlotte Theatre in Richmond on the exact anniversary of the concert with Henry Lowther, Tony Woods and Gerard Gregg-Smith as special guests with two follow on quartet performances, the first at the Chateau in the beautiful town of Laurens in the heart of the Herault region in South West France on Thursday 31 May, and then at the Exchange Theatre in Twickenham (West London) on Thursday June 21.
We have called the show Let’s Get Lost , the title of a song from the 1943 film Happy Go Lucky recorded by Chet Baker in 1955 but also the title of Bruce Weber’s biopic of Chet’s life, released posthumously in 1989.
Read on for more information about the life and music of Chet Baker , the Band and our concerts.
Chet Baker started playing professionally in the early 1950’s working with the baritone saxophone player and arranger/composer Gerry Mulligan and then with pianist Russ Freeman.Baker was voted America’s top trumpeter by Downbeat Magazine in 1955 ahead of Dizzie Gillespie, Miles Davis and Clifford Brown and helped to establish a West Coast style dominated by white musicians. The pressure of living up to this elevated status helped fuel Chet Baker’s appetite for a potent mix of hash, heroin and cocaine. His drug taking influenced his professional playing career, destroyed three marriages and ultimately led to his early death in Amsterdam on May 13 1988.
Always short of money, Chet Baker is one of the most recorded, some would say over recorded Jazz artists in history and his discography includes albums with Gerry Mulligan, Stan Getz, and Paul Desmond. Chet Baker is also one of the most photographed Jazz artists due to the work of William Claxton and the subject of Bruce Weber’s posthumous biopic, Let’s Get Lost.
Thirty years ago, just two weeks before his untimely death, Chet Baker played a final concert in Hanover. In this anniversary celebration year of his life and music, we revisit four decades of Chet Baker playing with some of the finest musicians to be found either side of the Atlantic including on bass, Carson Smith and Ron Carter, on piano Russ Freeman, Hal Galper and Harold Danko and on drums, Shelly Manne, Larry Bunker and Steve Gadd.
We reference music from the Fifties (Deep in a Dream, The Trumpet Artistry of Chet Baker for Dick Bock, Pacific Records and Chet in Paris 1955 for the Barclay Label, the Sixties (Chet is Back, The Italian Sessions and The Most Important Jazz Album of 1964/65 including Tadd’s Delight by Tadd Cameron), the Seventies (1974 Carnegie Hall Concert with Gerry Mulligan and She was Too Good for Me with arrangements by Don Sebesky) and the Eighties (Last Night in Tokyo and the Stuttgart and Hannover concerts).
Clive Brown – Double Bass
Clive was a member of the Royal Liverpool Philharmonic orchestra before moving on to the Bournemouth Symphony orchestra as co- principal bass. He then moved to London to become a freelance player.
As a bass teacher Clive teaches privately and taught for many years at the Royal Marines School of Music in Portsmouth and in Oman for the Royal Oman Symphony Orchestra. His brief in the Retro Chet Quartet is to recreate the sound of some of the great bass players that worked with Chet Baker from the 1950’s through to 1988 including Carson Smith, Jimmy Bond, Ron Carter, Leroy Vinnegar and Hein Van de Geyn.
Geoff Varrall – Trumpet, flugel horn and cornet
Over a long playing career Geoff has covered musical styles from brass band through to Jazz ballads and Be Bop. He set up the Retro Chet Quartet last year as a vehicle for recreating Chet Baker’s Last Concert in Tokyo for two performances at the Bulls Head in Barnes. The project this year is to capture the best of Chet Baker’s playing career which ended tragically early when he died on May 13 1988, thirty years ago.
Peter Miles – Drums
Since starting playing aged 10 in a Brisbane school marching band, Peter has worked with an amazing number of bands and artists including, in Australia, Matt Taylor and Mick Rogers (Manfred Mann’s Earth Band), Terry Hannagan, Mick Hadley and Max Merritt; in the UK, Dave Kelly’s RockSalt, Bob Hall, the Jo Ann Kelly Band, the Bob Bruning Band, Alexis Korner, Errol Dixon, Johnny Mars Band, Rocket 88 with Dick Morrissey, Jack Bruce, Don Weller, Paul Cox, Danny Adler Band, Paddy Milner, Gary Fletcher, Top Topham, Shakey Vick, Diz Watson, Daniel Smith Band, John Idan Band and Radical Sheikhs. Peter has also backed touring American Blues artists Big John Wrencher, Homesick James, Lightning Slim, JB Hutto, Dr Ross, Cousin Joe Pleasants and Eddie Guitar Burns. Peter cites Steve Gadd, one of Chet Baker’s key sidemen as one of his key influences alongside, Buddy Rich, Roy Haynes and Joe Morello.
Caroline Cooper – piano and keyboards
Caroline started playing at an early age, not that long ago, and has played with Vasili Xenopoulos, Nigel Price, Matt Wates, Mark Nightingale, Henry Lowther, Abram Wilson, Chris Biscoe and Tony Woods. Apart from her brilliant piano playing, she helps to reduce the average age of the band by several decades. For the Retro Chet Quartet, Caroline brings back to life some of the great piano players who supported Chet Baker over four decades including Russ Freeman, Gerard Gustin, Hal Galper, Amadeo Tommasi, Romano Mussolini (the son of the infamous father), Bob James and Harold Danko. Caroline also teaches dance and Pilates.
Let’s Get Lost in Laurens Thursday May 31 2018
Our thanks to Wendy Ogg and the Jazz Club a Laurens for hosting a fabulous evening and an invite to be back next year so another gig in France in the diary.
Thanks also to our guest compere Adrian Sheen
Wendy is hosting some great music this summer – for more information contact
LET’S GET LOST AT THE EXCHANGE THEATRE, TWICKENHAM, THURSDAY JUNE 21
A great concert at this new 300 seat theatre – our thanks to Stuart Hobday and his team for a memorable evening- photography with thanks to Robin Narayan and Geoff Norris
And a big thank you to Matthew Ruddick for joining us for a super evening at the Spice of Life in Soho on August 8th hosted as always by the irrepressible Paul Pace. The third edition of Matthew’s 828 page biography of Chet Baker, My Funny Valentine, is available from September this year and draws on over 200 interviews with people who lived and/or worked with Chet – it will be a riveting read.
MORE ABOUT THE RETRO QUARTET
Video and imaging courtesy of Robin Narayan
More images by Robin from the QCT Concert in Richmond
Comments from the QCT Concert
Wonderful gig, really enjoyed it.
A very fun & rather special evening
A treat to be there
The best £12.00 I have ever spent
A truly memorable night
Moves jazz up a place on the Music Premier League table, above Polka and Pan Pipes. Out of the relegation zone…. Euro-Vision not Europa League next target
Fabulous evening , loved the music, the venue, the repartee – a great time was had by all!
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