BWW Reviews: Tim Draxl presents a moving tribute to a talent lost too soon in FREEWAY – THE CHET BAKER JOURNEY.

Wednesday 18th March 2015, Hayes Theatre, Potts Point NSW

Tim Draxl returns to the Cabaret Stage and reprises his beautiful tribute FREEWAY - THE CHET BAKER JOURNEY with care and detail.

The smaller space of Hayes Theatre is perfect for this tribute to American Jazz trumpeter, flugelhornist and vocalist Chet Baker's life and work. The stage is simply set with shell footlights, a vintage table holding a glass of water and a book, and a retro microphone in front of the band comprising piano(Ray Alldridge, Musical Director), double bass(Dave Ellis), drums(Dave Goodman), and of course trumpet and flugelhorn(Shannon Marshall). Above, filament bulbs hang and the space is filled with a haze to draw the audience into the world of the intimate smoke filled venues that Baker played.

Draxl captures Baker's beautiful, reserved, haunting voice from the opening number, My Funny Valentine, where Baker reinterpreted the Rogers and Hart show tune covered by so many other artists to make it his own. The venue allows Draxl to connect with the audience as he makes eye contact and also express his own relationship to the music in the moments when he becomes absorbed in the lyrics, closing his eyes, feeling the music or gently dancing as Marshall, and the band take over.

Draxl shares his own connection to Baker's music along with a glimpse into the musician's history from his first trumpet and adoring mother to his later army days, career in Los Angeles, love of fast cars and illicit substances and untimely death. The ease of the 'patter' shows that Draxl is passionate about sharing Chet Baker's journey rather than just performing a work, beautifully constructed with co-writer Bryce Hallett. Along with the historical accounts Draxl channels Chet Baker, complete with Oklahoma drawl, backlit with a single blue spot light, to present Baker's personal accounts of events that shaped his life. Draxl captures the restrained emotions that pour out of Baker's work as he sings and his rolled up shirt sleeves, after he shucks the suit jacket, good looks, and easy movement fit with Baker's earlier days as the "James Dean of Jazz" and accounts he was "as beautiful as an angel".

Baker's trumpet and flugelhorn solos are captured with gentle dexterity by Shannon Marshall and are supported by the band that present a relaxed easy feel to the performance. As with the Owen Horton's (Lighting Designer) blue light that indicates Chet Baker's voice, Marshall's solos are highlighted with either a blue light or a single overhead lightbulb and the ceiling of suspended lights evokes images of the little bars and clubs that were home to Baker's music.

This performance is a must see regardless of whether you are a Chet Baker fan or you hardly know anything about the man and a definite for anyone that enjoys music that sings to your soul with gentle jazz not often heard anymore. Draxl's evocative singing and enthusiastic storytelling will have you wanting to discover more about Chet Baker, and Tim Draxl, by the time the show is over.


17 March - 22 March 2015

Hayes Theatre

19 Greenknowne Street Potts Point

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