It was quite a surprise to see eight Chet Baker albums, all recorded/released in the 1950s, collected together like this, out of which I only had one already in our large-ish collection of his music. Most Baker fans will pretty likely have most or all of the Chet Baker Sings tracks, as this is not only one of his best known, best loved and best selling albums in its own right, but the first port of call for compilation makers. If, like us, you have quite a bit else from Chet's extensive catalogue, most of this will slot in nicely. There's plenty of excellent material from both his trumpet-playing and vocalising sides, and the material and treatment is both varied and yet, for the most part, consistently good.
If you don't yet know the joys of C.B., this would be a good place to start, as you get the absolutely essential Chet Baker Sings as well as a good representative range of his other work from the period (arguably when he was at his peak). There's a fairly large dose of string arrangements (and not just on the Chet Baker And Strings album), which range from dated and saccharine to really quite good. If, however, you already know and love Baker, then there are really only two particularly noteworthy albums, to my mind. One notable for bad reasons, and one for good. The former is Chet Baker Introduces Johnny Pace. This is, for me at any rate, and despite Chet and the band doing a sterling job musically, irrevocably ruined by the featured vocalist, Johnny Pace. A Sinatra knock-off, he only differs from his role model in utilising more vibrato. His schmaltzy mannered delivery couldn't be more of a contrast with Baker's own singing style. Whose idea was this?
As if to highlight this, the album most notable for positive reasons is the vocal-heavy trio recording, Embraceable You. But this time, thank goodness, it's Chet singing. Unlike the Pace recording, this was shelved for many years, no doubt deemed uncommercial (Pace's commerciality is precisely what makes the music he appears on so comparatively banal). Oh, the idiocy of 'the music biz'! Sequenced as the last of the eight albums gathered together here, the position given to Embraceable You shows someone at Real Gone Jazz had more sense than the record execs of the era, as chronologically the Johnny Pace set would've come last. It's terrific that they chose to end with the far better trio recordings. Numbers like Little Girl Blue (performed as both a vocal and an instrumental) and the very last track, Trav'lin Light, are perfect sonic manifestations of Baker's ultra-mellow, ultra minimal and impossibly romantic after-hours persona.
Ironically the 'flaws' in this recording, if such they be, just add to the charm: Baker's vocal delivery itself, his extreme minimalism trumpet-wise, even the slightly out-of-tune notes from the double bass, these are like the grit in the oyster that creates a beautiful pearl (David 'Buck' Wheat's guitar is a revelation!). When I heard the Pace recordings, I almost regretted buying this set. However the Embraceable You album alone more than atones for that. And of course, very fortunately, everything else here is at the very least good, much of it excellent, with Chet Baker Sings being truly sublime. So, whether coming new to Chet, or filling gaps in your collection, as long as you don't have too much of what's on offer here already, I'd say this is an essential purchase, and a bargain to boot.
on 25 November 2012
This is a fabulous CD set. Incredible value. I have been a Chet Baker fan for a long time, but there are some albums that I have not heard before, and besides 'Chet Baker Sings' 1956, and 'Chet Baker indroduces Johnny Pace' 1958, Chet's inimitable clear, direct expressive style of singing is featured on tracks such as 'Grey December', the title of the 1953 album.
Amongst other songs Chet Baker vocalises on There's a Lull in My Life, and Little Girl Blue, on the 1957 album 'Embraceable You.
Chet baker and Strings of 1954, contains some lush romantic interpretations such as 'I Married an Angel', and some soulfull Trumpet playing on 'You don't know what Love is' and some interesting counterpoint with Saxophonist Zoot Sims.
There are a whole range of Jazz styles featured by the 'Chet Baker Sextet of 1957, from Dixiland, Swing, Cool, and I particularly like the last track ' X 4.31' which plunges into Atonal Modern Jazz.On this abum he is accompanied by Bud Shank on Baritone Sax, Carson Smith on Bass, Bob Ticarico on Bassoon, Seymour Barab on Cello, Russ Freeman on Piano, Bob BrBrookmayer on Trombone, and Gene Allen on Bass Clarinet, and Shelly Mann on Drums.
The 8 albums are very well presented on four CD's, with a textured surface representing a vynil album, with a general title of Real Gone, which is very appropriate.
The albums 'Chet Baker Cools Out' and 'Playboys' showcase more of his plaintive, relaxed, and sometimes amusing artistry with his Trumpet, along with Art Pepper on Alto Saxophone, Larance Marable on drums, some mean piano work from Carl Perkins, Curtis Counce on Bass, and Phil Urso on Tenor Sax.
What amazing value this is? Yes, Eight Chet Baker albums covering a four year period from 1953 - 1957. There are 84 tracks in total. Most of his best known tunes are on here - apart from `Let's Get Lost.' Chet died at 58 but left a legacy of understated trumpet mastery and a voice as soft as most of his playing.
Three of these albums are instrumentals which is a little unusual - though perhaps not, as Chet was first and foremost a musician and trumpet player.
Chet and Strings does what it says on the cover!
The introduction of Johnny Pace as his lead singer is interesting as this was JP's only album. He unbelievably died even younger than Chet! Actually, this album is quite good.
`Playboys' claim to fame is that Hugh Hefner (Playboy Magazine) threatened to sue if the album cover was not changed? This was eventually done but the original is shown here.
On the album `Embraceable You,' Chet plays & sings as part of a trio of just trumpet, bass & guitar.
There is an error on cd three - it gives the listings for `The Best of Chet Baker,' which of course it's not! A minor thing which may have now been corrected?