Chet Baker's West Coast cool comes to the Big Apple on Chet Baker in New York. The project would be Baker's first -- in a four album deal -- with the Big Apple-based Riverside Records. The bicoastal artist incorporates his decidedly undernourished sound and laid-back phrasing into the styling of Al Haig (piano), Johnny Griffin (tenor sax), Paul Chambers (bass), and Philly Joe Jones (drums).
The results are uniformly brilliant as Baker's cool-toned solos fly and bop with authority around the equally impressive supporting soloists. Conversely, the same cohesive unity continues on the introspective numbers that are more akin to Baker's California cool. Undoubtedly one of the charms of this collection is the distinct choice of material. Running the gamut from the relaxed and soothing "Polka Dots and Moonbeams" and equally serene "Blue Thoughts" at one end of the spectrum to the percolating and driving intensity of "Hotel 49" on the other.
Los Angeles, CA—Craft Recordings is pleased to reissue four classic, remastered titles from legendary jazz artist Chet Baker. The albums comprise Baker’s entire output as a leader for the renowned jazz label Riverside—all recorded and released between 1958 and 1959: (Chet Baker Sings) It Could Happen to You, Chet Baker in New York, Chet and Chet Baker Plays the Best of Lerner and Loewe. The recordings, which feature such icons as Bill Evans,Johnny Griffin and Kenny Burrell, have all been cut from their original analog master tapes by Kevin Gray at Cohearent Audio and pressed on 180-gram vinyl at RTI.
In the winter of 2019, Baker’s Riverside catalog was celebrated with the deluxe vinyl box set, The Legendary Riverside Albums. Now, these meticulously remastered recordings are available as individual albums.
Few musicians have embodied the romantic—and ultimately tragic—jazz figure as totally as Chesney “Chet” Baker (1929–88). Unschooled yet eloquent in his music, and a fast-liver who survived for nearly six decades, the Baker mystique has only reinforced one of the most haunting trumpet styles and ingenious approaches to jazz singing. The Los Angeles–based musician rose to fame in the early ’50s, playing with established artists like Charlie Parker, Gerry Mulligan and pianist Russ Freeman—partnerships which would solidify his status as a major jazz star. By the end of the decade, when he signed a four-album deal with the New York–based label Riverside, Baker had become known for his trademark West Coast “cool jazz” style. However, each of his recordings of this era—which pair the artist with some of the best East Coast players—demonstrate Baker’s versatility as a modern trumpeter who could play with even the hardest boppers.
Baker’s 1958 recording session debut for Riverside, which resulted in the album (Chet Baker Sings) It Could Happen to You, offers a modern, hipper take on standards like “Old Devil Moon,” “You’re Driving Me Crazy” and “How Long Has This Been Going On?” The album is an outlier in his Riverside output, marking the only title that was not produced by the label’s co-founder, Orrin Keepnews (who initially objected to his partner Bill Grauer’s unilateral signing of Baker).
The album is unique in that the nimble artist sets aside his trumpet on several of the tracks, using only his vocals—and even scatting some of the improvised solos in a style that sounds very much like his lyrical trumpet playing.
A month after his Chet Baker Sings sessions, the artist went back into the studio to record Chet Baker in New York with a stellar lineup of Philly Joe Jones on drums, tough-tenor Johnny Griffin, bebop veteran Al Haig on piano and bassist Paul Chambers. The song selection, which ranges from laid-back and serene to hard-driving bop, features top-notch performances and impressive solos from all musicians involved. Highlights include the Miles Davis–penned tune “Solar,” the ballad standard “Polka Dots and Moonbeams” and the effervescent “Hotel 49.”
Chet, 1959’s instrumental outing, focuses on ballads and features an all-star cast that includes pianist Bill Evans, guitarist Kenny Burrell, flutist Herbie Mann and Pepper Adams on the baritone saxophone. Baker shines in his languid and tuneful approach to tracks like “Alone Together,” “It Never Entered My Mind” and “September Song.” All About Jazz called the album “A session that allows the trumpeter to take his introspective time, encouraged by Evans’ spare accompaniment to transform these standards into vibrant, impressionistic etchings.”
Baker’s final album for Riverside, 1959’s Chet Baker Plays the Best of Lerner and Loewe, finds the trumpeter offering his renditions of tunes by lyricist Alan Jay Lerner and composer Frederick Loewe who, together, penned some of the most famous songs on Broadway. Baker, joined by an ensemble that once again included Bill Evans, Pepper Adams and Herbie Mann—along with the great Zoot Sims on tenor saxophone—covers material from My Fair Lady, Gigi, Brigadoon and Paint Your Wagon.
Though Baker’s Riverside era preceded even more troubling times for the artist, these recordings find the artist in excellent form, joined by some of New York’s finest musicians, proving his brilliance as an inspired original, and as one of the great jazz musicians of the 20th century.
- Fair Weather
- Polka Dots and Moonbeams
- Hotel 49
- Blue Thoughts
- When Lights Are Low