"Let's Get Lost" is perhaps the definitive Chet Baker tune.
It's a perfect examples of the cool and breezy West Coast
sound. A romantic tune that highlights both Chet's horn and
If someone asks you "What does Chet Baker sound like?" Play them this one.
"Let's Get Lost" - 1956
Jazz artists recorded with orchestras in the 1950's to appeal
to the "mainstream" audience. Billie Holiday and Charlie
Parker tried it, and Nat "King" Cole made a career of it,
leaving his jazz roots behind for commercial success. Jazz
purists may dismiss these recordings, but these gigs gave us a
departure from Chet's usual combo setting. His famous 1954
Chet Baker & Strings is saved by
some good arrangements and great sidemen. In 1959 Chet did an
Italian gig with the Len Mercer which would become his most
widely-issued recording ever. In the mid-sixties, Baker found
him self in need of money, and he churned out some commercial
fluff with the Carmel Strings for Worlds Pacific. Even with
those heavy-handed arrangements and poor song choices, Chet
shines with a few great solos. Chet rarely recorded with
strings in later years. Of note is a 1985 date with Mike
Melillo and Baker's final recording with the Radio
Orchestra Hannover in 1988.
"I'm Thru With Love" -
"Angel Eyes" - 1959
"Ballad of the Sad Young Men" - 1966
"Dancing in the Dark" - 1985
well-known that Chet did not like Rock 'n Roll music, so for
him to collaborate with a rock legend like Elvis Costello was
unusual. Here is Chet performing a guest solo on Costello's
1983 album Punch The Clock. Costello originally wanted Miles
Davis for the tune, but he was not available. Chet happened to be in London at
the time, so he signed on for the gig. Elvis was not disappointed in the least.
during this session that he gave Baker a copy of "Almost Blue".
"Shipbuilding" - 1983
There is a jazz term called "swings pretty", meaning you can play a ballad and
still swing. Considering Chet's impeccable timing and his lyrical tone, he was a
natural at swinging pretty. No more is that apparent than on this 1978 date with
"Blue Room" - 1978
Because of his fondness for ballads,
Chet Baker is not usually known as a technically proficient trumpet player.
Listen to these clips and decide for yourself. In the 1950's, Chet play as fast
as anyone on the scene. And one of his greatest gifts was his
impeccable timing. The clips from 1954/56 are from
Chet's days with Russ Freeman, where he played the liveliest bop. In later
years, Chet's sound evolved (due in part to physical
limitations), and his sound become even more lyrical. However,
he could still tear into a good solo in the 1980's, too. "Blue 'n'
Boogie" is from Chet's hot performance in New Haven, CT in 1980. "Arborway" is from the great
Chet Baker in
Tokyo CD. On the complete recording, this solo is almost 7 minutes
"Bea's Flat" - 1953
The Strings Of My Heart" - 1954
"Blue 'n' Boogie" - 1980
Chet did a lot of vocal work, and he
occasionally had guest vocalists on his recordings. Rarely, however, did he sing
duets. On "Autumn Leaves" he sings with Ruth Young for 1977's
The Incredible Chet Baker Plays and Sings. Her voice complements
Chet's music so well, it is a shame they did not record together more. "Far Away" is from Astrud Gilberto's
The Girl From Ipenema.
This is an interesting paring because Astrud's gentle singing style was
similar to Chet's.
"Autumn Leaves" - 1977
"Far Away" - 1977
From the Round
Midnight soundtrack. Producer Herbie Hancock was amazed at how Chet memorized the song, and recorded it in only one take. This one is special
to me because it was the first Chet Baker tune I ever heard.
"Fair Weather" - 1985
Chet Baker was by no means a prolific songwriter. He penned only a
few tunes during his
lifetime. It wasn't because of his lack of musical
training, his natural abilities far surpassed anything taught in a music class.
His amazing improvisation proves that it was not for lack of ideas. Perhaps Chet
didn't have the discipline to sit down and transpose the notes in his head to
paper. I think he just didn't have the time or opportunity. Living from gig to
gig, traveling, moving, maybe it was just something he always put off until
tomorrow. The clips above are just a few samples of those rare times Chet
recorded his original tunes. Like Chet's lifetime catalog, full of different
sounds and moods.
"Freeway" - 1952
"Il Mio Domani" - 1962
"Theme For Freddy" - 1964
"I Love My Wife" - 1985
This is probably my favorite Chet Baker
recording, because it features some of his best singing
and playing on one tune. The 1954 version of this tune is heard most often, but
this 1964 (or 63?) version is even better. The song is over 6 minutes long, and
Chet takes his time with one of his best vocal performances, followed by a wonderful trumpet solo. His
paying is languid and soft, sometimes so soft, his horn could be mistaken for a
flute late in the song. This song highlights that Chet was at his vocal
best in the 1960's. By then he had benefited from years of
experience, before years of neglect had not yet caught up with
his vocal chords.
"Time After Time" - 1964
This tune "bookends" Chet's recording
career. The 1953 recording is his first recorded vocal work. The 1988 version is
from his last recorded concert in April 1988. As you listen to the two clips,
with their 35 years between them, don't pay attention to how much they differ,
but rather how much they sound the same.
"I Fall In Love Too Easily" - 1953
"I Fall In Love Too Easily" - 1988
discography section for even more