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Vocal Jazz - Released January 1, 2010 | Riverside

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The ultra-hip and sophisticated "cool jazz" that Chet Baker (trumpet/vocals) helped define in the early '50s matured rapidly under the tutelage of producer Dick Bock. This can be traced to Baker's earliest sides on Bock's L.A.-based Pacific Jazz label. This album is the result of Baker's first sessions for the independent Riverside label. The Chet Baker Quartet featured on Chet Baker Sings: It Could Happen to You includes Kenny Drew (piano), Sam Jones (bass), and Philly Joe Jones (drums). (Performances by bassist George Morrow and drummer Dannie Richmond are featured on a few cuts.) This results in the successful combination of Baker's fluid and nonchalant West Coast delivery with the tight swinging accuracy of drummer Jones and pianist Drew. Nowhere is this balance better displayed than the opening and closing sides on the original album, "Do It the Hard Way" and "Old Devil Moon," respectively. One immediate distinction between these vocal sides and those recorded earlier in the decade for Pacific Jazz is the lissome quality of Baker's playing and, most notably, his increased capacity as a vocalist. The brilliant song selection certainly doesn't hurt either. This is an essential title in Chet Baker's 30-plus year canon. [Some reissues contain two bonus tracks, "I'm Old Fashioned" and "While My Lady Sleeps"]. © Lindsay Planer /TiVo
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Vocal Jazz - Released January 1, 1998 | Pacific Jazz

Distinctions The Qobuz Standard
As Gerald Heard's liner notes point out, it's difficult to decide whether Chet Baker was a trumpet player who sang or a singer who played trumpet. When the 24-year-old California-based trumpeter started his vocal career in 1954, his singing was revolutionary; as delicate and clear as his trumpet playing, with a similarly bright and vibrato-free tone, Baker simply didn't sound like any previous jazz singer. His first vocal session, recorded in February 1954 and covering tracks seven through 14 of this disc, is so innocent-sounding it's like cub reporter Jimmy Olsen had started a new career as a jazz singer. The album's first six tracks, recorded in July 1956, are even more milk and cookies, thanks in no small part to syrupy material like Frank Loesser's "I've Never Been in Love Before" and Donaldson/Kahn's drippy "My Buddy." Choices from the earlier session like "My Funny Valentine" -- arguably the definitive version of this oft-recorded song -- and "There Will Never Be Another You" work much, much better. The spacious musical setting, a simple trumpet and piano-bass-drums rhythm section, is perfect for Baker's low-key style. Despite the few faults of song selection, Chet Baker Sings is a classic of West Coast cool jazz. © Stewart Mason /TiVo
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Vocal Jazz - Released January 1, 1989 | Blue Note Records

Distinctions The Qobuz Standard
To much of the pop (as opposed to the jazz) audience, Chet Baker was known not as an able cool jazz trumpeter, but as a romantic balladeer. The two classifications were not mutually exclusive; Baker's vocal numbers would also feature his trumpet playing, as well as fine instrumental support from West Coast cool jazzers. For those who prefer the vocal side of the Baker canon, this is an excellent compilation of his best vintage material in that mode. The 20 tracks draw from sessions covering the era when he was generally conceded to be at his vocal peak (1953-1956), and are dominated by standards from the likes of Rodgers & Hart, Carmichael, Gershwin, and Kern. Baker's singing was white and naïve in the best senses, with a quavering, uncertain earnestness that embodied a certain (safe) strain of mid-'50s bohemianism. That's the Baker heard on this collection, which contains some his most famous interpretations, including "My Funny Valentine," "Time After Time," "There Will Never Be Another You," and "Let's Get Lost." © Richie Unterberger /TiVo
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Jazz - Released April 16, 1988 | ENJA RECORDS Matthias Winckelmann

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Despite a rough up-and-down life, Baker remained an excellent trumpeter to the end of his career. This concert, performed two weeks before his mysterious fall out of an Amsterdam hotel window (and his last known recording), is a near-perfect summation of his career. The emphasis is on his trumpet playing and Baker, whether backed by a symphony orchestra, a big band or playing in a small group with altoist Herb Geller, is in inspired form. This double-CD set is also available as two separate CDs and, in one form or another, is highly recommended. © Scott Yanow /TiVo
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Jazz - Released January 1, 1994 | Blue Note Records

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At his peak, Chet Baker's playing and singing were original, compelling, and unforgettable; his voice had an innocent, intriguing quality and surprising range, while his trumpet work was as striking and melodically stunning as anyone who's ever worked predominantly in the middle register. These 14 cuts were done in 1954 as Baker turned heads on both coasts. They're presented here in vivid sonic clarity and quality, a reminder of Chet Baker's genuine greatness. © Ron Wynn /TiVo
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Jazz - Released October 5, 2010 | Masterworks Jazz

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Jazz - Released April 15, 2003 | RCA Bluebird

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Recorded in Italy in 1962, Chet Is Back! showcases the "cool" trumpeter cutting loose on such bop-oriented workouts as "Pent-Up House" and "Well, You Needn't." Backed skillfully by a young cadre of up-and-coming European musicians, including the stellar saxophonist Bobby Jaspar, Chet Baker may have never sounded better, including on the ballads. One listen to "Over the Rainbow" and it's clear this is an overlooked Baker classic. [Fans should check out the 2003 reissue of Chet Is Back!, which includes four orchestral pop bonus tracks Baker recorded with Ennio Morricone around the same time as this session.] © Matt Collar /TiVo
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Vocal Jazz - Released January 1, 1955 | Pacific Jazz

Distinctions The Qobuz Standard
With the growing popularity of Chet Baker's first vocal album, Chet Baker Sings, Pacific Jazz producer Richard Bock wanted to capitalize on both facets of his young star's abilities. Hence, the trumpeter turned vocalist entered the studio in 1955 with both his quartet featuring pianist Russ Freeman and an expanded sextet including bassist Red Mitchell, Bud Shank on flute, and various string players. The resulting album, Chet Baker Sings and Plays, helped set in stone the image of Baker as the jazz world's matinee idol and icon of '50s West Coast cool. His laid-back style -- a mix of '30s crooner and Miles Davis' nonet recordings -- appealed in its immediacy to a jazz public tiring of the hyper, athletic musicality of bebop. Similarly, his plaintive, warm trumpet sound was the more sensitive antidote to such brassy kings as Dizzy Gillespie and Clifford Brown. Others artists had performed many of these standards before, but as with "My Funny Valentine" on Chet Baker Sings, tracks like "Let's Get Lost," "Long Ago and Far Away," and "Just Friends" became definitively associated with Baker for the rest of his career. Chet Baker Sings and Chet Baker Sings and Plays are not only the two most important albums of Baker's career, but are classics of jazz. [The 2004 EMI reissue of Chet Baker Sings and Plays includes an EP version of "Let's Get Lost" not included on the original album.] © Matt Collar /TiVo
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Jazz - Released September 1, 2012 | Igloo Jazz Classics

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Jazz - Released June 15, 2007 | ENJA RECORDS Matthias Winckelmann

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Jazz - Released January 1, 2003 | Blue Note Records

Distinctions The Qobuz Standard
The numbers heard on Chet Baker & Crew were among a prolific flurry of recordings Baker was involved in during the last week of July 1956 -- fresh from an extended European stay. Sessions were held every day from the 23rd through the 31st, which resulted in such classic titles as The Route, Chet Baker Sings, and At the Forum Theater -- which is also available under the title Young Chet -- as well as Chet Baker & Crew. The crew on these sides includes Phil Urso (tenor sax), Bobby Timmons (piano), Jimmy Bond (bass), Peter Littman (drums), and of course Baker (trumpet/vocals). Joining the combo on both the original as well as the alternate take of "To Mickey's Memory" and "Pawnee Junction" is Bill Loughbrough (chromatic tympani). His unmistakable percussive accents and tuned drum solos give these West Coast bop tracks uniquely Polynesian intonations. The bandmembers take full advantage of their individual roles and abilities as soloists to really stretch out on "Slightly Above Moderate" and the Urso-credited composition "Halema" -- named after Baker's wife. The chemistry of cool that flows between Urso and Baker is perhaps at its finest during the seamless exchange heard on "Worryin' the Life Out of Me." Timmons also boasts notable contributions throughout. His playful and scampering style dresses up the bluesy "Lucius Lu" and "Line for Lyons," among others. The latter is also notable as it contains the sole Baker vocal on this set. © Lindsay Planer /TiVo
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Jazz - Released January 1, 1995 | Blue Note Records

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A ballad collection that emphasizes Chet Baker's troubled-romantic vocal style, it's not too surprising that these 1957 recordings remained in the vaults for almost 40 years. For one thing, Baker's delicate tenor, having won the hearts of thousands of teenage fans, was considered somewhat of a novelty to most critics. For another, his guitar-and-bass accompaniment is incredibly sparse, and while that doesn't hurt his trumpeting at all, being so prominent in the mix occasionally betrays his vocal limitations. Baker's fans, though, need not worry about such petty analysis, for the wistful, tormented tone of this record is the very sound that helped create the legend, and in places he is firmly in his element, especially on "There's a Lull in My Life" and a sublime instrumental version of "Little Girl Blue," which features some of his finest soloing. While it isn't the place to start, Embraceable You is a fascinating example of why Chet Baker's tragic spirit remains as attractive today as it was in his lifetime. © Jim Smith /TiVo
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Jazz - Released January 1, 1989 | Capitol Records

Distinctions The Qobuz Standard
This 1989 CD issue compiles all known sides cut during a July 26, 1956, session led by Chet Baker (trumpet) and Art Pepper (alto sax). Keen-eyed enthusiasts will note that this particular date occurred during a remarkable week -- July 23 through July 31 -- of sessions held at the behest of Pacific Jazz label owner and session producer Dick Bock at the Forum Theater in Los Angeles. The recordings made during this week not only inform The Route, but three other long-players as well: Lets Get Lost (The Best of Chet Baker Sings), Chet Baker and Crew, and Chet Baker Quintet at the Forum Theatre. Likewise, these were the first sides cut by Baker since returning from his triumphant and extended stay in Europe. The Route compiles all 11 tracks by the sextet featuring Richie Kamuca (tenor sax), Pete Jolly (piano), Leroy Vinnegar (bass), and Stan Levey (drums) in support of Baker and Pepper. Bock had no immediate plans to use these recordings for any one album; that is to say he incorporated the tracks throughout various compilations released on Pacific Jazz. Three months later, however, Baker and Pepper did record with completely different personnel for the expressed purpose of issuing what would become known as Playboys and alternately Picture of Heath. Perhaps encouraged by the swinging interaction on Pepper's "Tynan Time" and "Minor Yours," both tracks were featured at this session as well as during the Picture of Heath collaboration. There are a few unexpected moments of sheer brilliance spread throughout, such as the Baker-penned title track, which contains supple and nicely contrasting solos from Kamuca and Vinnegar -- whose solid pendulum accuracy swings all through this collection. The Route is recommended for completists as well as curious consumers wishing to expand their knowledge of the light and airy rhythms that typify the cool West Coast jazz scene of the mid-'50s. © Lindsay Planer /TiVo
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Jazz - Released January 1, 1998 | Blue Note Records

Distinctions The Qobuz Standard
The seven sides that make up the all-star outing Picture of Heath (1961) might be familiar to fans of co-leads Chet Baker (trumpet) or Art Pepper (alto saxophone), as Playboys (1956). Perhaps owing to trademark-related issues with the men's magazine of the same name, Picture of Heath became the moniker placed on the 1961 Pacific Jazz vinyl re-release, as well as the 1989 compact disc. Regardless of the designation on the label, the contents gather selections recorded on October 31, 1956 -- the third encounter between Baker and Pepper. Backing Baker and Pepper are the sizable quartet of Carl Perkins (piano) [note: not to be confused with the '50s and '60s rockabilly star], Larance Marable (drums), Curtis Counce (bass), and Phil Urso (tenor sax). Although Pepper supplied "Minor Yours" and "Tynan Time," the majority of the material can be traced to Heath Brothers trio member, Jimmy Heath (sax/flute), who was himself an acclaimed instrumentalist, composer, and arranger. The aggregate provide essential interpretations of his work, adding their own unique earmarks on to what is arguably the best and most playful interaction involving Baker and Pepper. Notable occurrences can be heard on "Picture of Heath" where Pepper sonically salutes Thelonious Monk, quoting recognizable passages from "Rhythm-A-Ning" on a number of occasions -- initially during a fierce exchange with Baker on the title track and then again prominently in the commencement of the aforementioned Pepper composition "Tynan Time." One of the more striking elements coalescing the partnership between the combo's soloists is the seemingly innate abilities that Baker and Pepper share as they propel themselves through the limber lines of "For Minors Only." The level of musicianship is evident as Counce, Perkins, and Marable effortlessly banter with youthful verve. Both the studied bop enthusiast and average jazz lover will find much to enjoy and revisit on Picture of Heath. © Lindsay Planer /TiVo
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Jazz - Released January 1, 2000 | Verve

Distinctions The Qobuz Standard
Verve/A&M's reissue of Chet Baker's 1977 album You Can't Go Home Again features the trumpeter/vocalist supported by an all-star band that includes guitarist John Scofield, tenor saxophonist Michael Brecker, and alto saxophonist Paul Desmond in his final recording session. Former Miles Davis sidemen Tony Williams and Ron Carter also add an organic touch to the proceedings and a warm contrast to the electric pianos and Moogs that flow through Don Sebesky's arrangements. Alternate takes of the title track and others including "I'm Getting Sentimental Over You/You've Changed," "The Best Thing for You," and "If You Could See Me Now" make this double-disc set a more complete look at one of Baker's most important latter-day albums. © Heather Phares /TiVo
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Jazz - Released January 1, 1988 | Universal Music Division Decca Records France

Distinctions The Qobuz Standard
Chet Baker's first trip to Paris had its share of twists. His regular pianist, Russ Freeman, was unavailable, so the promising young player Dick Twardzik was recruited. Unfortunately, a few weeks after the quartet arrived, Twardzik was found dead in his hotel room from a heroin overdose. Baker still had bookings to honor, so he recruited French pianist René Urtreger and drummer Bert Dahlander to replace Peter Littman (who had returned to the U.S.). The first of four volumes includes all of the selections recorded for Barclay that feature the Baker quartet with Twardzik; all but one were composed by Bob Zieff, enjoyable pieces but hardly expected to become a part of the jazz canon. Twardzik plays a little bit of celeste at the beginning of his composition "The Girl from Greenland," which has some more adventurous chord progressions than Zieff's material. The later group with Urtreger adds two horns, alto saxophonist Jean Aldegon, and trombonist Benny Vasseur, which doesn't sound like a pickup group at all. The extra horns take some pressure off the leader, while the final piece, "In Memory of Dick" was contributed by Belgian saxophonist Bobby Jaspar (who would also die prematurely at a young age). If the Baker-Twardzik group had been able to work together for an extended period, it might have produced compelling music. This collection is enjoyable though it falls short of being essential. Long out of print and fetching ridiculous prices at auction, this music reappeared in a comprehensive boxed set of Baker's Barclay recordings that was issued in 2008. © Ken Dryden /TiVo
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Jazz - Released January 1, 1977 | A&M

Distinctions The Qobuz Standard
This CD features previously unissued material from the same sessions that resulted in You Can't Go Home Again and, if anything, the music is a touch better. While an alternate take of Don Sebesky's "El Morro" uses a larger group, the other five performances find Baker accompanied just by a rhythm section (pianist Kenny Barron, bassist Ron Carter, drummer Tony Williams and, on one song, guitarist Gene Bertoncini). As a special bonus, altoist Paul Desmond makes memorable appearances on three songs during what would be his final recording session. Throughout, Chet Baker shows that his playing during his much documented final period would be equal if not superior to his more acclaimed recordings of the 1950s. © Scott Yanow /TiVo
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Jazz - Released April 9, 1992 | Columbia - Legacy

Distinctions The Qobuz Standard
This release offers a unique glimpse of a young Chet Baker in a quintet setting, complemented by a nine-piece string section. Utilizing the uniquely modern arrangements of Johnny Mandel, Marty Paich, Jack Montrose, and Shorty Rogers, this interaction of "West Coast cool" with primordial elevator music escapes many -- if not indeed all -- of the potential sonic pitfalls such a marriage might suggest. In the truest sense of the word augmentation, the string arrangements provide the desired opulence sans the heavy-handed or syrupy residual effects. Perhaps most inspiring about this outing is the success with which Baker and crew are able to thrive in this environment, providing subtle insight into the quintet's ability to simultaneously adapt and explore. Chet Baker and Strings was recorded over three days in late 1953 and early 1954. Joining Baker (trumpet) on these sessions are Jack "Zoot" Sims (tenor sax), Jack Montrose (tenor sax), Russ Freeman (piano), Joe Mondragon (bass), Shelly Manne (drums), and Clifford "Bud" Shank (alto sax), who steps in for Sims on the 1954 date. "Love Walked In" incorporates a trademark volley of interaction between Baker and Sims. "Love" contains what is arguably the most successful implementation of the string section, as well as some stellar soloing by Freeman. In fact, his contributions to this particular recording rank among his finest with Baker and company. The same enthusiasm can likewise be applied to "A Little Duet for Zoot and Chet." Not only are Sims and Baker in top flight, but the string arrangement swings irresistibly as well. The easygoing and otherwise winding strings support the cool bop like a kite in a March breeze -- light, airy, and conspicuous only in altitude. © Lindsay Planer /TiVo
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Jazz - Released January 1, 1990 | ENJA RECORDS Matthias Winckelmann

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This CD is the second half of Baker's final recording, a rather impressive concert in which the trumpeter was joined (in separate sections) by a symphony orchestra, a big band and a small group with Herb Geller. Highlights include "Look for the Silver Lining," "Sippin' at Bells" and a touching rendition of "My Funny Valentine." Both parts of this memorable performance are highly recommended. © Scott Yanow /TiVo
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Jazz - Released January 1, 1954 | Blue Note Records

Distinctions The Qobuz Standard
Chet Baker Ensemble collects all the tracks recorded by trumpeter Chet Baker and his group on a session for Pacific Jazz in late December of 1953. Having been released piecemeal on various albums over the years, this represents the first complete gathering of this material. Recorded less than two months before the legendary Chet Baker Sings sessions, these tracks showcase the young Baker as a hardcore jazz trumpeter before the public became overwhelmingly infatuated with his unique vocal abilities. Featuring first-rate "West Coast"-style arrangements by tenor saxophonist Jack Montrose -- who also composed many of the songs -- the septet seems to combine the jocular interplay of Baker's work with saxophonist Gerry Mulligan with the hip, swinging work popularized by the large ensembles of trumpeter Shorty Rogers. Besides Montrose, backing Baker here are saxophonists Herb Geller and Bob Gordon, bassist Joe Mondragon, drummer Shelly Manne, and pianist Russ Freeman. Rating alongside the best of Baker's catalog, Chet Baker Ensemble is a must-hear for both longtime fans and neophytes of the iconic trumpeter/vocalist's work. © Matt Collar /TiVo