Bruce Weber directed an utterly beautiful if quite bleak biopic on trumpeter and singer Chet Baker. This isn't exactly the 'OST' to that film, Let's Get Lost, but rather a companion piece. Baker died shortly after the film and this album were made, under slightly mysterious circumstance. This wasn't his very last album chronologically, but it was one of the last, and certainly it was the last to feature his voice as prominently as it does.
Amazon has a rather annoying habit of mixing up reviews, and even product descriptions, and at the time I'm writing this, it has a product description appended to this CD that actually refers to another very different CD! The reason is that both are listed as Let's Get Lost. The one mistakenly referred to is a 20-track compilation of his classic mid-fifties recordings, with pianist Russ Freeman et al, and not the 12-track recording made in the late-eighties.
This is most likely listed as 'Let's Get's Lost' in order to make sure fans of the film can find it. But it can obviously cause confusion as well! Personally I call it 'Bread, butter and champagne', a title which appears as a slogan or sub-title on the original album cover (at least in the couple of copies I've owned; at top left on the front). Bread, butter and champagne is, I think, a far more poetic and evocative phrase than the title listed here at Amazon UK.
Chet Baker was enormously prolific - I now have about 35-40 Chet Baker albums, from the youthful brilliance of his best Pacific recordings to the toothless junkie comeback that is Albert's House, right up this one, his vocal swan song - and there are many, many more. Perhaps thanks in part to his drug problems, and the relationship that effected with his recorded and gigging work, his recordings cover a very wide-range, both in material, style (though it can all be loosely collected under the jazz label), ensemble size and composition, and even quality.
Although I love some of his instrumental only jazz work, and there's far more of that than there is of his vocals, because I came to him via Weber's film I've always had a soft spot for his vocal work, which Weber very definitely favours (perhaps somewhat misleadingly, from a musicology point of view), both in the film and in the selections made for this album. Of the twelve tracks several are well known standards, some already a familiar part of his huge repertoire, such as 'Everything Happens To Me (he even recorded a vocal album in the '50s featuring and taking its title from that song), or the evergreen 'Every Time We Say Goodbye'.
Most are achingly romantic ballads, a type of song he specialised in, these may be less familiar, but are still considered standards, and include titles like 'Daydream', and 'You're My Thrill' - some of these are my favourites within Baker's enormous recorded catalogue. Baker is best known for this side of his work, although a lot of the 'cool jazz' he did, especially the instrumental stuff in the late '40s and '50s is surprisingly uptempo and upbeat. But this recording is resolutely low-key, stripped down, in a mellow minor - pardon the junky pun - vein. A personal favourite is the slightly obscure Moon And Sand, which I loved so much I learned to sing and play it on guitar.
But pretty much every track's a winner here, if a rather maudlin melancholy one. There's just one instrumental, Zingaro, which has a slight Latin/Bossa touch, thanks to the flute and guitar of Nicolo Stilo. All the guys in the group, who we see at several recording sessions during the film, are top notch: pianist Frank Strazzeri is a very cool older guy, and Chet clearly digs him the most. He accompanies Chet's languid trumpet and vocal style perfectly, with a gently florid touch that's pitch-perfect, elaborate, harmonically rich and complex, yet never fussy or overstated. Bassist John Leftwich likewise has a richly sonorous melodic tone, and essentially the record comes over as a collection of trios. But there is actually a small amount of near inaudible percussion, by Ralph Penland, and the aforementioned Nicolo Stilo guests on a few tracks.
There's something doubly poignant about these recordings - perfectly summed up by the aged ragged Chet singing 'Blame It On My Youth' - as they are so very different from those of his youth, and and yet there is also a continuity. As photographer Bill Claxton observes in the film, he was shocked at the ravages of time and drugs that had changed Baker form '50s matinee idol into a wrinkled ex-California raisin. But when he sang and played, the old magic and the young Chet were still there.
The choice of songs is perfect, bluer than blue, and Baker's delivery, always laconic, is almost supine, it's so laid back. Perhaps a little surprisingly Elvis Costello's 'Almost Blue', the only modern number, sits beautifully amidst the older standards, which does Costello great credit. At around the same time as I first saw this, I also saw 'Down By Law', another moody black and white movie. In the latter Roberto Bernigni says 'it's a sad and beautiful world'. That mood perfectly captures the spirit of Weber's film and this album.