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The Best Of Chet Baker

Chet Baker

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Album Review

The Chet Baker volume in Fantasy's Best Of series covers only a relatively tiny portion of his lifespan, yet it does capture the self-destructive trumpeter/singer at two crucial times — when the jazz world was his oyster, and during one of his many attempts to regain his old appeal. Orrin Keepnews, the co-head of the Riverside operation, selects the material and writes the notes, working in chronological order. You don't have to read between the lines of Keepnews' carefully chosen words to realize that he and the unreliable Baker weren't exactly the best of chums, and that only the passage of time allowed Keepnews to reach some kind of objectivity about their sessions. The first two choices lie somewhere outside the time frame of the bulk of the collection — Chet as featured member of the 1952-1953 Gerry Mulligan Quartet, playing his signature tune, "My Funny Valentine," along with "Moonlight in Vermont." From there, Keepnews jumps to Baker's brief period as a Riverside headliner — from August 1958 to July 1959 — starting with three vocals of three standards. Baker's boyish pop-styled singing voice is an acquired taste, but perhaps oddly appealing as a 1950s iconic symbol of a time long gone. The remainder of the collection finds Baker only on his horn — sometimes short on stamina, sometimes nailing a difficult passage or two, often effective at ballad tempos — fronting teams of first-rate jazz talent. But you can't lose with a rhythm section containing Miles Davis' team of Paul Chambers and Philly Joe Jones, and the likes of Pepper Adams, Bill Evans, Herbie Mann, and Zoot Sims are worthwhile foils for the former wunderkind. ~ Richard S. Ginell, Rovi

Biography

Born: 23 December 1929 in Yale, OK

Genre: Jazz

Years Active: '50s, '60s, '70s, '80s

Chet Baker was a primary exponent of the West Coast school of cool jazz in the early and mid-'50s. As a trumpeter, he had a generally restrained, intimate playing style and he attracted attention beyond jazz for his photogenic...
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