Chet Baker: Chet For Lovers (2003)
Of course the title of this newest entry in Verve's "For Lovers" series is redundant. What did trumpeter Chet Baker ever record that wasn't directed to lovers, particularly the jaded variety? This is simply a finely honed compilation of fourteen Baker tunes spaning the fifties and sixties. Crucial are the Paris sessions from 1955, arguably the finest of his career instrumentally. Backed by an unremarkable rhythm section, Baker never sounded as delicately balanced between ecstasy and angst, so resolute and fragile simultaneously.
This anthology intersperses those heavyweight Parisian ballads with his versions of songs identified with Billie Holiday, partial successes because Baker's vocals are so frail and occasionally toneless that one wishes for Lady Day's most robustly colorful versions. Yet Baker as vocalist unexpectedly shines on Mel Torme's "Born to be Blue," backed solely, soulfully, by a spritely Bobby Short on piano and appropriately misty-toned Kenny Burrell on guitar. Baker puts real muscle into that blues.
There are no new revelations into Baker's career in this collection of mainly familiar standards, but a lovelier cross-section of Baker singing and playing at his peak is unimaginable. For all the hype surrounding Baker's Pacific Jazz recordings and his place in the West Coast school, this disc offers a convincing case that the Okie artist left his heart in Paris, and never played better than in the city of lights and lovers.
Track Listing: 1. There Is No Greater Love, 2. These Foolish things (Remind Me of You), 3. You're Mine You, 4. Alone Together, 5. The Touch of Your Lips, 6. Tenderly, 7. Everything Depends on You, 8. Autumn in New York, 9. Easy Living, 10. You Go to my Head, 11. Born to be Blue, 12. Crazy She Calls Me, 13. Everything Happens to Me, 14. That Ole Devil Called Love.
Personnel: Chet Baker, Hank Jones, Bobby Scott, Kenny Burrell, Richard Davis, Connie Kay, and others.