Below is my paraphrase solo of There Will Never Be Another You with Chet Baker. I was supposed to take two choruses, but, satisfied I said enough in one, stopped there.
To give context to the evening, I'm including a short except from my new book, The Sublime and the Ridiculous: Tales from a Jazz Life, which I haven't released for fear of getting sued by so many. . .
Carnegie Hall Concert
When performing for a big star in front of a packed house of one of the most famous concert halls in the world, anything can—and often does—happen. Chet Baker got a call from Creed Taylor to do a major comeback concert and record a live double CD recording at New York City’s Carnegie Hall with fellow headliners Gerry Mulligan and Stan Getz, along with such luminary sidemen as Roland Hanna, Ron Carter, John Scofield, Harvey Mason, Dave Samuels and Bob James. When they got to the rehearsal at CTI Studios, they all fell out into bickering and other ego-induced unpleasantness. As a result of each star refusing to play together without also being able to do a set with his own band, I became Chet’s compromise addition to the play-list for the concert recording that would be released as Carnegie Hall Concert.
Subsequently, when Chet and I rehearsed our best material with Bob James, Ron Carter, and Harvey Mason, everything went beautifully. On the evening of event, however, several things ran amiss. The announcer brought the sidemen onstage first, and then announced the star. The entire band was assembled onstage, then Chet’s name was announced—but Chet didn’t come out right away. Then I noticed that the curtains were ruffling, and that there was a commotion of some kind taking place backstage. Chet was engaged in a fistfight: That’s how the concert began.
Then, seeing the hall filled, with people even crowding the aisles, Creed, for some reason approached Chet and started suggesting tunes for him to play—tunes which we hadn’t rehearsed—and indeed didn’t know. This was one of Chet’s weaknesses: As great a musician as he was, he would often exhibit poor judgment as a bandleader. He scrapped our entire set and started calling—onstage—different and unfamiliar material. One of these tunes was The Thrill Is Gone, and he counted it off at the slowest ballad tempo I’ve ever heard—before or since. Anyway, he sang the melody while I backed him up on trombone, and everything was fine—until my solo, which followed. Pianist James, apparently uncomfortable with the tempo, quadrupled the harmonic rhythm (played through the chords four times as fast) during my improvisation, in which I was obviously paraphrasing the melody in single time. Carter was lost and wouldn't commit.
Chet, frustrated, yells to James (about me): He’s trying to play a ballad! To this James, a successful producer in his own right, merely gave an indifferent shrug and continued what he was doing. This infuriated Chet, who turned beet red, clenched his fist and headed directly towards James to punch him out—on stage, in Carnegie Hall, in front of a packed house, while recording a live double album! I was in center front stage, with Chet on my left and James on my right, so when I saw this going down—while recording a solo and still on the mike—I had to shake my head at Chet while leaning forward to block his path to the offending pianist.
This demonstrates how no matter how well prepared you are stuff can and will happen. Remaining beyond the minutia of the music (chords, scales, forms, etc.) is the only place to be, so that you can be free to react to the players with whom you are conversing; and the audience to whom you are telling your story. Only if you are focused and strong enough can you overcome such obstacles and distractions as the incident I have described.
Later on that evening Chet and I were playing our steady local gig at Striker’s, a jazz night club in the basement of a hotel located on the corner of 65th Street and Columbus Avenue. Here the phone was ringing off the hook all during our set, since the bartender wouldn’t answer the phone, knowing that it was Chet’s girlfriend calling, as was her habit whenever she knew that Chet’s wife was at the club. In a moment of brief silence between tunes, Chet looked at me and said, You know, man, this is where it’s at. He had just come from his big, successful comeback concert at Carnegie Hall in New York City, recorded a live double album for the biggest jazz label in the world, and he tells me that this dingy little club, where we were paid twenty-five dollars each a night was where it’s at.