Personnel: Chet Baker (trumpet), Stan Getz (tenor saxophone), Joe Mondragon (bass), Chico Hamilton (drums).
The "Haig" here doesn't signify Al, but the Los Angeles-based nightspot where this date was recorded on June 24, 1953. This is still a very early date for Chet Baker, whose first session as a leader for Pacific Jazz lay a month in the future. Baker's public career began as the star trumpet man in Gerry Mulligan's famous "piano-less quartet," and this is that same group, minus Mulligan, who by this date had been jailed on a narcotics charge. Stan Getz, fresh from his first conquest of Scandinavia, agreed to fill Mulligan's shoes on the last few dates the quartet had already booked, thus bringing together Getz and Baker on this live recording. Unfortunately, this is a recording of a couple of fellows who don't know how to get out of each other's way. Haig '53: The Other Pianoless Quartet is mainly a train wreck in the making, but it stays interesting up through the end of "Move." Afterward, Getz and Baker can't come to an agreement of how to put over the melody of "Mulligan's Soft Shoe," so only splintered fragments of the tune are given. Baker completely falls apart during "Whispering" and is forced to bail out short of completing his second chorus. Bassist Carson Smith gets a solo during "All the Things You Are," probably because by that time both frontmen had temporarily abandoned the piece. The sound is very good for a live club date of this period, with the usual minor amount of wow, flutter, and dropouts you would expect from a 1953 tape. The audience is pretty quiet as well. Altogether, Haig '53 is mostly just a historical curiosity, and serves as testament to the long-standing friction between Stan Getz and Chet Baker -- artists who were stylistically similar to the extent that they should've gotten along but they didn't, and both players are far better-served on their own turf. ~ Uncle Dave Lewis