Chet Baker: Plays the Best of Lerner & Loewe

ChetBaker_PlaysTheBestOfLernerAndLoeweChet Baker chills out on Broadway

This 1959 recording, the last of trumpeter Chet Baker’s albums for Riverside, was also on the leading edge of jazz artists exploring material from Broadway musicals. Shelly Manne’s My Fair Lady had made a tremendous splash in 1956, and Baker’s own Chet included tunes from Rogers & Hart and Kurt Weill. Backed here by Herbie Mann, Zoot Sims, Pepper Adams, Bill Evans and a rhythm section of Earl May and Clifford Jarvis, the interpretations are lyrical, and as you’d expect from Baker, cool. Half of the eight tracks are from My Fair Lady, and the contrasts with Manne’s interpretations are many. “I’ve Grown Accustomed to Her Face” is more forlorn than delicate with its loss. “I Could Have Danced All Night” is turned from a Latin rhythm and Andre Previn’s quick fingers to the lighter mood of Mann’s woodwinds and Baker’s trumpet. “On the Street Where You Live” features the interplay of Baker’s trumpet and Adams’ baritone, and “Show Me” finds the band heating things up a bit, with Mann and Sims offering compelling solos.

The album’s four remaining titles were drawn from Brigadoon, Gigi and Paint Your Wagon. “Heather on the Hill” is more reserved than the Broadway score, losing the expectation of the original’s lyric to a drowsy backing with contemplative trumpet and flute leads. A breezy reading of “Almost Like Being in Love” reflects the lyric’s unbridled joy, and Baker’s lead on “Thank Heaven for Little Girls” is more introspective than Maurice Chevaliar’s trademark performance. There’s nothing particularly revelatory about these interpretations – neither about the musicians or the music. But in a sense, that’s the album’s proposition: Frederick Loewe’s melodies are fetching, Alan Jay Lerner’s lyrics give story to the instrumental leads, and the musicians play true to their usual excellent form. The 2013 reissue of this title features a 24-bit Joe Tarantino remaster of the original eight tracks, Orin Keepnews’ original liners and new notes by James Rozzi. [©2013 Hyperbolium]

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