Shelly Manne’s album of tunes from My Fair Lady
was a huge success, and thus it was a natural move to follow it with other swingin’ Broadway records. Chet Baker was an obvious fit for this type of project, an artist whose handsomeness and fragile playing pegged him as a boyishly romantic interpreter of songs. He found success in the lush textures of Chet
by marrying earnest renditions of tunes with a pleasant unassuming approach intended to capture a wider audience.
This 1959 set of Lerner and Loewe tunes has all the ambience of a candlelight dinner, and Chet's improvisation serves as the flickering flame. Economical, precise, and softly nuanced, his trumpet glides over the melodies gracefully, and often with a boldness not present in his other work. It helps that for the most part every tune is played at a tempo just slow enough to create a relaxed atmosphere without sacrificing the sense of gentle swing. But Baker is also aided by a cadre of sidemen who, when not providing snazzy riffs in the background, contribute some sparkling solos. The presence of Pepper Adams recalls the great Baker-Mulligan collaborations of previous recordings, while Zoot Sims, who may have never played an off note in his life, trades licks with Baker on a couple of numbers. Herbie Mann, who provided the arrangements, also plays flute, if only to make sure things don’t get too heated, and it certainly doesn’t hurt to have Bill Evans sit in on a few tracks.
The whole album has a whiff of the detached coolness of Miles’s classic Prestige albums, albeit without the luster of experimentation; one senses that the group can play these tunes expertly and effortlessly, turning in some fine, textbook soloing, but aren’t stretching their imagination. Still a fine album, though, now warmly remastered.
Personnel: Chet Baker - trumpet; Herbie Mann - flute; Zoot Sims - alto and tenor saxophone; Pepper Adams - baritone saxophone; Bill Evans - piano; Bob Corwin - piano; Earl May - bass; Clifford Jarvis - drums.