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Jazz Street: Chet Baker

posted September 10, 2015, 7:12 am by Nathaniel Lathy | Filed Under Jazz Street, Throwback Thursday | comment Leave a Comment

Chet Baker

Chet Baker

Chet Baker was a great singer and an amazing trumpet player. When I first heard “Look For the Silver Lining” on a a promo for TCM, my mother said it was Mel Torme singing. I let her know later it was Chet Baker. I discovered this after my father exposed me to the classic album “Chet Baker Sings.” His voice is remarkable. It’s not quite as amazing as Torme’s but that is asking a lot. One problem for Baker in the comparison game with other jazz artists is he’s not as well known. He didn’t dominate the pop charts like Louis Armstrong, Duke Ellington. He isn’t referenced as much as Frank Sinatra, Tony Bennett and Glenn Miller, artists some consider too popular to reside in the jazz realm.

There can be debates back and forth about which are better recordings, the ones with vocals versus the instrumentals. Both are worth the listening time. I prefer the singing. It was an asset for him, he excelled in both singing and playing. Baker died in 1988 at the age of 59. He had his share of problems. Fortunately, the music lives on. Discussions continue about what the best jazz album is. Dave Brubeck’s “Jazz Goes to College” is bandied about along with John Coltrane’s “My Favorite Things,” various Louis Armstrong collections and there’s Judy Garland’s “Judy at Carnegie Hall.” This can bring up discussions about what’s authentic or innovative enough. Listening to jazz can be a cerebral exercise. But it also manages to entertain as often as any other genre. It is here where Baker shines and he came up with some great songs. I haven’t heard very many of his albums. There must be some other gems out there based on his enormous talent and the research I’ve done. There are collections, which are in various degrees of quality based on reviews. Surely, there’s plenty there for the pop music lover to enjoy and at least at first, mistake for someone else before becoming a fan.


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