"Let's Get Lost" The Best of Chet Baker Sings. Late at night, low-lit room. His voice is sooooo sensual!!! Course, almost anything instrumental by him will do....
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In my personal opinion, Chet did his best work in the early to mid-1950's (his LP's on Pacific Jazz were excellent, particularly the recordings with Gerry Mulligan and Art Pepper), and late in his life (the SteepleChase label). Chet, as you know, had a severe drug problem, and lost his teeth due to an infection, which made it nearly impossible for him to play his trumpet during much of the 1960's. He did a couple of recordings on the CTI label which aren't bad, if you like the Creed Taylor sound (I don't -- it's too commercial and bland for my taste). IMO, Chet was also grossly over-rated as a vocalist, unless you are looking for "music to get laid by".
One of the early Mosaic Records boxed sets reissued Chet's Pacific Jazz small group recordings. If you can find this set (now long out-of-print), it's excellent, and has a first-rate booklet about Chet's life and the recordings.
The Riverside recordings mentioned in the previous post are OK, but by the time Chet did those LP's, he was seriously strung out on heroin. If you already have many of Chet's others recordings, the Riversides are worth having, but I wouldn't start with them,
Chet wrote a short autobiography / memoir titled "Chet Baker: As Though I Had Wings - The Lost Memoir", with an intro by his wife Carol. It's an interesting read, although I wish Chet had included more details about his recordings. The book is published by Buzz Books, a division of St. Martin's Press.
I'd definitely avoid the stuff he recorded during the twilight of his life. I forgot which CDs those were since I've long tossed them in the closet somewhere. But, I recall his horn playing was distressed even during calm passages while his vocals were interupted with saliva swallowing and audible yammy tongue movements. Not desireable coming from an old guy. However, I love "Lets Get Lost" and some of his earlier works. The self-titled recently remastered "Chet" has some great horns.
Did anyone get the "The Italian Sessions"? I'd like to hear some reviews.
I really enjoy the Learner and Lowe recording and also own and heartily recommend the Mosaic Chet Baker/Russ Freeman box that SD mentions. But how about something way off the menu? For some real fun try one of the Mariachi Brass featuring Chet Baker recordings. The Mariachi brass tried to capitalize on the Tiajuana Brass frenzy, though really missed the mark. Outings to try are "In The Mood" and "Hats Off", both on the Pacific Jazz label. And, if you're still with me, the mono LPs sound a bit more present than the stereo mixes.
Almost without exception, young jazz lions play (and sing) better than when they become old jazz lions. Make friends with that. Yes, the Pacific Jazz recordings, both vocal and instrumental, are the freshest. Get them. But truth to tell, Chet always had a way with a phrase, never mind the diminished chops. Good listening to you.
Far and away his single best is "Chet Baker & Crew", one of the Pacific Jazz releases (1956 or thereabouts?). It's got Phil Urso, tenor, Bobby Timmons, piano, Jimmy Bond, bass, and I can't remember the drummer. Baker and this group play with a lot more fire than was often the case on many of his recordings. I have an original mono LP that is quite well recorded as well as a routine CD reissue, but I note that there apparently are a couple of remastered CDs that add additional tracks. These might be worth checking out, since the price is only $12 on cdnow.
The drummer was Peter Littman with Bill Loughbrough on percussion on a few of the tracks, recorded, I believe, 7/21-7/31/56. So jealous that you have an original, mine is the horrible United/Superior LP reissue which was retitled "Chet Baker Quintette", probably to confuse the uninitiated as the sound is so terrible on this pressing one would think it a completely different record.