Los Angeles, CA (September 26, 2019)—Craft Recordings is pleased to announce the release of Chet Baker’s The Legendary Riverside Albums on November 15th. The deluxe five-LP box set presents the artist’s output as a leader for the renowned jazz label, recorded and released between 1958 and 1959: (Chet Baker Sings) It Could Happen To You, Chet Baker In New York, Chet and Chet Baker Plays The Best Of Lerner And Loewe. The recordings, which feature such icons as Bill Evans, Johnny Griffin and Kenny Burrell, have been cut from their original analog master tapes by Kevin Gray at Cohearent Audio and pressed on 180-gram vinyl at RTI. Also included is a bonus disc of choice outtakes and alternates from Baker’s Riverside sessions, plus a collectible photo print and a 16-page booklet filled with photos and insightful new liner notes by jazz historian Doug Ramsey. The complete collection will also be released digitally, including in hi-res 192/24 and 96/24 formats. The track “You’re Driving Me Crazy” is available to stream and download today: listen and pre-save the collection here.
Few musicians have embodied the romantic—and ultimately tragic—jazz figure as totally as Chesney “Chet” Baker (1929–88). Unschooled yet eloquent in his music, and a fast-liver who survived for nearly six decades, the Baker mystique has only reinforced one of the most haunting trumpet styles and ingenious approaches to jazz singing. The Los Angeles–based musician rose to fame in the early ’50s, playing with established artists like Charlie Parker, Gerry Mulligan and pianist Russ Freeman—partnerships which would solidify his status as a major jazz star. By the end of the decade, when he signed a four-album deal with the New York–based label Riverside, Baker had become known for his trademark West Coast “cool jazz” style. However, these recordings—which pair the artist with some of the best East Coast players—demonstrate Baker’s versatility as a modern trumpeter who could play with even the hardest boppers.
Baker’s 1958 recording session debut for Riverside, which resulted in the album release (Chet Baker Sings) It Could Happen To You, offers a modern, hipper take on standards like “Old Devil Moon,” “You’re Driving Me Crazy,” and “How Long Has This Been Going On?” The only album in this collection not produced by the label’s co-founder, Orrin Keepnews (who initially objected to his Riverside partner Bill Grauer’s unilateral signing of Baker), Chet Baker Sings is unique in that the nimble artist sets aside his trumpet in several of the tracks, using only his vocals—and even scatting some of the improvised solos in a style that sounds very much like his lyrical trumpet playing. In his new liner notes, Doug Ramsey praises that the album contains “Baker’s most inventive and convincing vocal work.” While All Music calls the album “An essential title in Chet Baker‘s 30-plus-year canon.”
A month after his Chet Baker Sings sessions, the artist went back into the studio to record Chet Baker In New York with a stellar lineup of Philly Joe Jones on drums, tough-tenor Johnny Griffin, bebop veteran Al Haig on piano and bassist Paul Chambers. The song selection, which ranges from laid-back and serene to hard-driving bop, features top-notch performances and impressive solos from all musicians involved. Highlights include the Miles Davis–penned tune “Solar,” the ballad standard “Polka Dots and Moonbeams” and the effervescent “Hotel 49.”
1959’s instrumental outing, Chet, focuses on ballads and features an all-star cast that includes pianist Bill Evans, guitarist Kenny Burrell, flutist Herbie Mann and Pepper Adams on the baritone saxophone. Baker shines in his languid and tuneful approach to tracks like “Alone Together,” “It Never Entered My Mind” and “September Song.” All About Jazz called the album “A session that allows the trumpeter to take his introspective time, encouraged by Evans’ spare accompaniment to transform these standards into vibrant, impressionistic etchings.”
Baker’s final album for Riverside, 1959’s Chet Baker Plays The Best Of Lerner And Loewe, finds the trumpeter offering his renditions of tunes by lyricist Alan Jay Lerner and composer Frederick Loewe who, together, penned some of the most famous songs on Broadway. Baker, joined by an ensemble that once again included Bill Evans, Pepper Adams and Herbie Mann—along with the great Zoot Sims on tenor saxophone—covers material from My Fair Lady, Gigi, Brigadoon and Paint Your Wagon.
In addition to the four LPs, The Legendary Riverside Albums also includes a fifth disc, featuring outtakes and alternate takes from Baker’s recording sessions with the label. Doug Ramsey points out several highlights, including “Chet’s playing into a Harmon mute on the new version of ‘The More I See You’ and the spaciousness of his open horn in the Matt Dennis–Tom Adair classic ‘Everything Happens To Me.’ There is also a rarity, ‘While My Lady Sleeps.’” Ramsey adds that Baker’s version of the song “Underlines pianist [Kenny] Drew’s finely honed ability to concentrate on his partner’s phrasing and harmonic turns, and supply perfect support.’”Though Baker’s Riverside era preceded even more troubling times for the artist, these recordings find the artist in excellent form, joined by some of New York’s finest musicians, proving his brilliance as an inspired original, and as one of the great jazz musicians of the 20th century. The collection is now available to pre-order in 5-LP and digital formats: Click here
Special bundle featuring a limited edition Riverside t-shirt available exclusively via the Craft Recordings online store: Click here
TRACK LISTING: DISC ONEChet Baker Sings: It Could Happen to You
Side 11. Do It The Hard Way2. I’m Old Fashioned3. You’re Driving Me Crazy4. My Heart Stood Still
Side 21. The More I See You2. Everything Happens To Me3. Dancing On The Ceiling4. How Long Has This Been Going On?5. Old Devil Moon
DISC TWOChet Baker In New York
Side 11. Fair Weather2. Polka Dots and Moonbeams3. Hotel 49
Side 21. Solar2. Blue Thoughts3. When Lights Are Low
Side 11. Alone Together2. How High The Moon3. It Never Entered My Mind4. ’Tis Autumn
Side 21. If You Could See Me Now2. September Song3. You’d Be So Nice To Come Home To4. Time On My Hands5. You And The Night And The Music
DISC FOURChet Baker Plays The Best Of Lerner And Loewe
Side 11. I’ve Grown Accustomed To Her Face2. I Could Have Danced All Night3. The Heather On The Hill4. On The Street Where You Live
Side 21. Almost Like Being In Love2. Thank Heaven For Little Girls3. I Talk To The Trees4. Show Me
DISC FIVEBonus LP: Outtakes and Alternates
Side 11. While My Lady Sleeps (Take 10)2. You Make Me Feel So Young (Take 5)3. The More I See You (Take 8, Alternate)4. Everything Happens To Me (Take 2, Alternate)
Side 21. Soft Winds2. Early Morning Mood