Chet Baker: Sings – It Could Happen to You

West Coast vocal cool meets East Coast instrumental swing

Concord Records initiated a new pass through their Original Jazz Classics catalog in March of 2010, and they now add five more titles to the program. Each reissue features a new 24-bit remaster by Joe Tarantino, extensive liner notes, and bonus tracks. By the time of this initial 1958 session for Riverside, Baker had been complementing his trumpet playing with vocal turns for several years. This release expands upon the vocal talent shown in earlier Pacific Jazz sessions: the tone of his voice is still startlingly pure, but the intimacy of West Coast cool has become even more pronounced in his style. Baker’s vocal lines often mimic what he might play on the trumpet, but the mechanics of trumpet valves don’t impact his singing, giving the transitions a smoothness that separates his singing from his horn playing. The material selected for these sessions is drawn primarily from the great American songbook, but his then current quartet of Kenny Drew (piano), Philly Joe Jones/Dannie Richmond (drums), and George Morrow/Sam Jones (bass) are driven more by the rhythms than the melodies, particularly on the tracks featuring Jones. Baker seems more comfortable with the songs than those on this earlier vocal sets, swinging freely (though still quite coolly – compare his take on “You Make Me Feel So Young” with Sinatra’s 1956 version) and indulging his voice more naturally than before. The element of surprise that came with earlier vocal outings was dispelled by this point, but the quiet strength of his singing is still completely mesmerizing. Baker plays his horn only occasionally, scat singing a few solos and giving pianist Drew several of the instrumental leads. Drew is also exceptional as an accompaniest – adding flavor without ever overwhelming Baker’s vocals. Concord’s 2010 reissue of this set adds four bonus tracks, “While My Lady Sleeps,” and “You Make Me Feel So Young,” both of which were on the original Original Jazz Classics CD reissue, and alternates of the album tracks “The More I See You” and “Everything Happens to Me.” The fold-out booklet includes full-panel reproductions of the original covers (front and back), Orrin Keepnews’ original album notes, and new liners by Doug Ramsey. [©2010 hyperbolium dot com]

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