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The Best of Chet Baker by Chet Baker

I tend to greet "Best of" albums with skepticism. So many are cheap attempts to resell the same old tracks in a different package. And it’s such a subjective undertaking anyway. After all, one man’s "best" cut is just another mediocre track to another.

I was particularly skeptical of a new Riverside release titled The Best of Chet Baker.I mean, here’s a guy who has been anthologized and compilated and repackaged so many time, both before and after his death in 1988, what could yet another "best of" add to the mix?

But, as often happens when I am skeptical, I was pleasantly surprised. This is a great collection for casual or advanced Chet fans, spanning a seven-year period when the trumpeter-vocalist was perhaps at his peak. Here are a couple super-cool tracks co-led by bari man Gerry Mulligan (including a take on "My Funny Valentine," practically Chet’s theme song), three sterling examples of Baker’s instantly recognizable, velvety vocalese ("The More I See You" is the stand-out), and some of his late ’50s work with larger combos that include such powerhouses as Kenny Burrell, Bill Evans, Zoot Sims and Herbie Mann, including three tracks from one of my favorite Baker discs of that era, ...Plays the Best of Lerner & Loewe. A fine cross-section of a fecund phase.

I shouldn’t have been so surprised. Baker’s discography is so vast, it would take a concerted effort to fully plumb all its dimensions. Perhaps if Riverside had just titled the disc, More of the Best of Chet Baker, I wouldn’t have hesitated.

Additional Info

  • Artist / Group Name: Chet Baker
  • CD Title: The Best of Chet Baker
  • Genre: Cool Jazz
  • Year Released: 2004
  • Reissue Original Release: 1952-1959
  • Record Label: Riverside
  • Tracks: My Funny Valentine, Moonlight in Vermont, The More I See you, Old Devil Moon, Do It The Hard Way, Fair Weather, Solar, Soft Winds, If You Could See Me Now, How High The Moon, It Never Entered My Mind, September Song, Thank Heaven For Little Girls, I Talk To The Trees, On The Street Where You Live
  • Musicians: Chet Baker (trumpet, vocals (3, 4, 5), Gerry Mulligan, Pepper Adams (bari), Johnny Griffin, Zoot Sims (tenor), Herbie Mann (flute), Bill Evans, Al Haig, Kenny Drew (piano), Sam Jones, Carson Smith, Paul Chambers, Earl May (bass), Connie Kay, Clifford Jarvis, Chico Hamilton, Philly Joe Jones (drums)
  • Rating: Five Stars
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