Wednesday, January 6, 2010

What About Chet!?!

Chet Baker (trumpet; b. 1929 - d. 1988)

So I took a look back at some of my discussions over the past few months and realized I forgot to talk about Chet Baker. What the hell was I thinking!?! Chet Baker played in a style very similar to Miles Davis' early recordings--smooth, melodic and sophisticated. Nowhere near as adventurous as Miles, Chet still possessed the ability to craft a rhythm that was just as haunting and brilliant.

Chet Baker is quite regarded among jazz fans but remains somewhat a cult figure for those new to jazz. His unfortunate struggle with heroin destroyed his chances of really scaling the highest of Miles', Clifford Brown or Dizzy Gillespie. Chet Baker played in Charlie Parker's band early in his career before moving out on his own with the legendary piano-less quartet with Gerry Mulligan. Chet would later go on to form his own group and record a series of wonderful albums during the mid-fifties. His drug habit resulted in erratic recording dates throughout the rest of his career even though he still had ability to perform quite well.

There are so many compilations on Chet Baker it almost matches those of Miles Davis. The one I would recommend is Career: 1952-1988 (Shout Factory). It's hard to sum up a career as expansive as Chet's but this collection manages to touch on all the important points for any beginner. One of the things that really set Chet Baker apart from his contemporaries was not only his effortless ability on the trumpet, but also his warm, lush vocals that added to his mystic. Career: 1952-1988 captures both over the span of two discs. From his beautiful classic version of "My Funny Valentine" to the enchanting cover of Elvis Costello's "Almost Blue" this collection has exactly what you would need to learn about one the greatest and often overlooked genius' in jazz history. In addition, I would suggest you also check out Chet Baker's final studio session entitled Peace (Enja Records), recorded in 1988 which was a lovely return to form and a great testament to his legacy.

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