(Hear Music – 2007)
by Matthew Robinson
To say that the team at Hear Music has outdone themselves is saying something indeed, but in terms of this newest collection of the oft-compilation-ed Jazz master Chet Baker, it may very well be the case!
Though it only covers albums from Baker’s early years, the mix of vocal and instrumental tracks gives a satisfying taste of what was to come and of what might have been had Baker not fallen prey to the pressures of fame and the negative elements that can come therewith. From his ironically upbeat personal theme song “Let’s Get Lost” to his signature take on “My Funny Valentine,” Baker mixed joy, exploration, and heartbreak in every song through his brassy horn and smoky vocals. “To Mickey’s Memory” is oddly up for a memorial tune and, considering the manner of Baker’s untimely death, the inclusion of “Jumpin’ Off A Clef” is also somewhat ironic, but irony is just one of many themes explored on this comprehensive collection.
“I Fall in Love Too Easily” and “Everything Happens To Me” are both heart-tugging tales of woe to which we can all relate and “Trav’lin’ Light” speaks of moving on without saying a word. On other tunes, such as the gurgly “A Night on Bop Mountain,” Baker hangs in the background, allowing the Les Baxter-esque percussion to take the lead. Similarly, on “Little Girl Blue,” Baker is out front but mostly on vocals, with only one chorus of quavering horn to be heard. Despite the violent nature of his ascension and demise, Baker was a master of subtlety and this album reveals nearly every mood and nuance in a relatively limited set of selections. Though it may only be an introduction to Baker’s extended yet still far too short career, it is a solid one that encourages further exploration into the mysterious life of this complicated artist.
©2007 Matthew S. Robinson, arr.