Review Summary: An endearing jazz classic that has stood the test of time thus far and will only continue to do so.
Chet Baker is a legend among the jazz community. There is absolutely no doubt about that. Being both a master trumpeter and a truly endearing vocalist he really was quite the unique case. His career started in the 1950’s during which he received exuberant critical praise and became quite the heartthrob for the young teenage girls at the time. Playing with the likes of jazz saxophone legend Charlie Parker and first achieving massive success with the Gerry Mulligan Quartet he quickly made quite the name for himself. “Chet Baker Sings” was the album that brought his fame together. Although it was not his debut, it was the first album to feature both his vocals and his horn playing.
“Chet Baker Sings” is a cool album and I mean this in the jazziest of ways. The album features no original tunes; however that does not stop Baker from making each and every chart his very own. The laid back piano playing and the perfectly in sync rhythm section brings a stripped down but perfectly confident sound to the entire album. Baker’s soft but well articulated singing style simply reeks of confidence in the best of ways and never becomes flashy or overbearing. His sparring vibrato and hints at falsetto keep the listener engaged and interested through every piece on display. It’s all just cool and that is truly the only way to phrase it.
Every member featured instrumentally on the album exudes happiness. It’s almost cheeky at times but it fits in a very charming sort of way. The drum work is very light and entirely brushed. It moves things along nicely and stays exceptionally clean. The bass walks for the most part, but it keeps a very busy and well organized feel. It never feels frantic or even repressed; it simply stays light and energetic.
The solo sections on the album are outstanding. When the piano takes hold of a feature it grips tightly and does not release. Floating in bliss is the most accurate way to describe it. The effortless melodic phrasing that seems to be incorporated into every improvisation makes it very easy to listen to and it stays simple so as to save the listener from becoming lost in any musically technical attempt. Chet’s horn solos are much like his vocal approach, they feel intimate and sweet rather than flashy or incoherent, an approach that so many jazz musicians of the early 1950’s chose. The melodic phrases of his improvisations are tasteful and cheerful for the most part. They all compliment his music well and keep things moving when need be as well as holding things back when it best compliments the music.
“Chet Baker Sings” lacks any negative aspects. It is timely, to the point and just plain old fun throughout! Only two songs on the album could even be considered downers and in no way do they bring the energy of the album down (as they are placed together and broaden the emotional spectrum presented). The light hearted, positive and alluring quality of the music is refreshing and entirely enjoyable. Chet Baker and his fellow musicians truly crafted a masterpiece with this album and it will be remembered by jazz enthusiast for decades to come.