The legend of Chet Baker — the jazzman maniac who lived life to its absolute maximum at all times — often outpaces appreciation of his music. Sure, everyone knows “My Funny Valentine,” and Chet Baker Sings, but Baker recorded a deep catalog of affecting, jovial, delightful jazz and, thankfully, a lot of his catalog has seen reissue in recent years. Including two new audiophile, AAA, all-analog pressings of two pivotal Baker releases on Riverside Records.
The first is (Chet Baker Sings) It Could Happen To You, a late 1958 album of standards that Baker recorded with pianist Kenny Drew and a slamming rhythm section. In the early and mid-’50s, Baker became as close to a pop idol as a jazz star could get, when his album Chet Baker Sings updated a series of old standards and made them sound contemporary. He also had baby boy good looks and a crooner’s voice a shade below Sinatra’s, which secretly became maybe his best instrument, surpassing his trumpet on later recordings for its impact, and the way it could bowl you over. That voice is the star of It Could Happen to You, an album that takes the Chet Baker Sings idea, and leans even harder into Baker’s voice, as he doesn’t even play much trumpet on some of the songs here, instead opting to bebop scat his way across these standards with just his voice. The title track is a showstopper; there isn’t anyone in jazz who could sing this well and also play the horn as well as Baker did.
You can get VMP’s exclusive color edition of It Could Happen to You, pressed at RTI right here.
The second Chet Baker reissue is Chet Baker In New York, another album recorded in 1958, though this one wasn’t released until 1959. Unlike It Could Happen to You, this album foregrounds the West Coast legend’s trumpet playing, as its one of the most chilled-out records of bop you may ever hear. The highlight is in the ballads featured here, which find Baker in fine form. “Polka Dots and Moonbeams” can take you from happy to sad and introspective in about four bars.
You can get VMP’s exclusive color edition of Chet Baker in New York, pressed at RTI, right here.