(BluNote/Verve – 2003)
by Matt Robinson
From Be-bop to Blues, Chet Baker was one of the most diverse, accomplished and undersung heroes of the Jazz Age. Though his personal life may have been of questionable virtue, his trumpet and vocal stylings were unmatched. He brought together all sorts of stlyes and all sorts of music fans. On this latest celebration of this tragic figure, Baker even brings together two legendary Jazz labels through a lovingly selected baker’s (or is that “Baker’s”?) dozen of career-spanning favorites. From Baker’s signature trumpet on his punchy Gerry Mulligan Quartet original “Freeway” and a flugelhorned flight through “Think Beautiful” to a reminiscent swing through “That Old Feeling” and an absolutely romantic reading of “My Funny Valentine,” this album has something for both instrumental and vocal Jazz fans and also for nearly every mood.
While “Born to Be Blue” is as sad and gently faded as its lyrics describe, the expectorant “Lush Life” may recall the later days in Baker’ career when he had to relearn trumpet playing with false teeth, but it is in fact a relatively early session. Stretching from 1952 to 1983, this “definitive” compilation paints an accurate, albeit broadly-stroked portrait of one of Jazz’s late greats.
©2003, M. S. Robinson, ARR