Temporary Hero

Independent Record Promotions, 2015

REVIEW BY: Ludwik Wodka


There seem to be two ways that one can approach an album of cover songs – either to reinterpret material that the artist has written or to emulate elements of their style. On the album CHET by Temporary Hero, neither of these things takes place. Ostensibly “an eclectic and otherworldly reinterpretation of the Chet Bake Sings catalog,” these are songs that Chet Baker did not write. Furthermore, Temporary Hero goes a few steps farther by not just reinterpreting the songs, but in some case completely re-harmonizing the songs (i.e. changing the tonality or harmonic elements of the song). That these songs have come to be associated with Chet Baker only serves as a point of departure for the more adventurous and experimental interpretations of these familiar American Songbook classics. my_heart_sings_the_harmony_web_ad_alt_250

Temporary Hero does not dwell on any of Chet Baker’s definitive stylistic trademarks: whether it be his breathy croon, the elegant phrasing of his trumpet, or that West Coast cool jazz sound. These are traded in for stripped-down arrangements that feature as little as a drum machine, synthesizer, and overdubbed voices. However, the thing that stands out the most is the way that the songs themselves are basically rewritten. Purists will scream sacrilege. For example, “Time After Time” is changed from a major to minor key. Though it takes a bit to get over the difference from the original version and accept it on its own terms, the end result is fascinating and compelling. On some songs, like “The Thrill Is Gone” and “Look For The Silver Lining,” the re-harmonization gives these familiar melodies a strange, haunting quality in this new context.

Unfortunately, while this approach works on some of these songs, on others it suffers. The ballad standard “I Fall In Love Too Easily” is again completely re-harmonized, and the result is a weakened melody line and unfocused arrangement. Perhaps Chet fell in love too easily, but on this version, I did not.

By giving some of Chet Baker’s signature songs a makeover, the result is alternately alienating and fascinating, depending how invested you are as a listener to the integrity of the standards. Then again, part of the appeal of this album is in the creative liberties Temporary Hero takes with these songs, playing off their familiarity to underscore his artistic daring. I continuously waver between loving and hating these songs, sometimes changing my mind from one listening to the next – but I like that it continuously challenges me as a listener.

Rating: B

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