I can’t remember when I first heard Chet Baker but I’ve been a fan for a while. A long time. Feels like he’s just been there forever. My whole life. But I would have been a teenager before I first heard him knowingly. And then it was all in. And it’s still the way. Currently I’m listening to Chet Baker almost every day. Live albums. Studio albums. Compilations. Things I know well. Things I’m just discovering…
With Chet, to me, it’s about the brokenness – heartthrob looks and voice, the crooner and the cool jazz player. And it’s all ruined by addiction. A truly tragic story. And it’s there in the music. It’s always there in the music. So, it’s been so long since I lined up a Five Songs For Friday I thought I’d share some of my favourite Chet Baker tracks. Here goes…
1. For Miles and Miles
Featuring another huge talent that was messed up and ruined by addiction – Art Pepper – this album, Picture of Heath was definitely the one that properly introduced me to Baker. And Pepper for that matter. One of the greatest jazz albums of all time.
2. It’s Always You
I might prefer Baker the player over Baker the singer – but I certainly love his crooning too. Sometimes he gets it just right. And is the voice I want to hear. Here’s just one example of exactly that.
3. Lady Bird
The album In Milan is a favourite – the story is it’s Chet with a pick-up band of Italian players. I like it a lot. Simply because it’s been in my collection a long, long time. From back when you’d go to the store to find out more about an album or artist you liked. And you’d take the person behind the counter at their word and try or just buy – and this is one of those examples. A great album. Always a comfort.
4. My Funny Valentine
I now have no idea why I said I prefer Chet as trumpet player over Chet as singer; they go together – they’re parts of the man; of what he does, who he is, how he hides. You hear him inside these songs, hiding deep down in there. His version/s of My Funny Valentine – always one of the sublime moments.
5. Almost Blue
Elvis Costello hears Chet Baker as part of the soundtrack of his youth – is inspired to write something that touches on some of that tone. Creates the song Almost Blue, records it, and then near the end of his life Baker offers up his version. There are other covers – but this might well be the definitive take.
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