For fans of the incredible value Best Of Chet Baker Sings this would seem to me to a good contender for the next obvious port of call. Pianist Kenny Drew has a spritely, melodic and spirited rapport with Baker reminiscent of Baker's wonderful work with Russ Freeman on their classic Pacific recordings. Most cuts feature Philly Joe Jones and Sam Jones (not related as far as I know!) as rhythm section crew (a few cuts substitute George Morrow an Dannie Richmond). The whole group never sounds anything less than wonderful.
Baker is often described as an exponent of West coast 'cool jazz', and this mellow record fits that image. But interestingly the other players are all, except for bassist Morrow, East coast players whose careers were more New York focused (albeit Kenny Drew spent a lot of time in Europe). They handle the selection of pretty melodic standards, typified by such apt titles as I'm Old Fashioned, with beautifully laid back aplomb. And the arrangement are great, subtle enough o almost pass unnoticed, but strong enough to keep the program at once unified nd homogenous, whilst reminding varied and interesting.
Baker is in fine once, and his trumpet solos are great. In fact, along with his classic Pacific recordings this is the best material in his catalogue in rems of balancing these to aspects of his art. His mostly vibrato-free singing, with long, slow, lazily delivered notes reveals a close relationship between his phrasing as a vocals and on the horn, which becomes especially clear in the occasional scat breaks.
Thanks in large part to the itinerant lifestyle caused by his drug usage issues, Baker's very extensive catalogue is very varied in quality. But this is solid, and an excellent example of him at the top of his game, with an obvious emphasis on the vocals, but benefitting from wonderful trumpet playing, a great selection of material and a superb band. This CD sees a lot of action at our house!