This is one of the last Chet Baker (trumpet) long players recorded in the States prior to the artist relocating to Europe in the early '60s. Likewise, the eight-tune collection was the final effort issued during his brief association with the Riverside Records imprint. The project was undoubtedly spurred on by the overwhelming success of the Shelly Manne-led combo that interpreted titles taken from the score to My Fair Lady (1956).
In addition to becoming an instant classic, Manne's LP was also among of the best-selling jazz platters of all time. While Baker and crew may have gained their inspiration from Manne, these readings are comparatively understated. That said, the timelessness of the melodies, coupled with the assembled backing aggregate, make Chet Baker Plays the Best of Lerner and Loewe (1959) a memorable concept album.
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.
- I’ve Grown Accustomed to Her Face
- I Could Have Danced All Night
- The Heather on the Hill
- On the Street Where You Live
- Almost Like Being in Love
- Thank Heaven for Little Girls
- I Talk to the Trees
- Show Me