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11/16/13

Joe Barbieri
Chet Lives!
Le Chant du Monde

Of the myriad musical tributes marking the 25th anniversary of Chet Baker’s death, this one from Italian guitarist and vocalist Joe Barbieri is among the sincerest. His adoration of Baker is palpable throughout, particularly on the somewhat saccharine yet charming title track.

Still, for all its earnestness, the album only partially succeeds. It is, interestingly, one of the few recent Baker salutes to actually feature a trumpeter. And though Luca Aquino lacks Baker’s ice-cool legerdemain, his trimming of all nine tracks is understatedly lovely. The issue is Barbieri’s singing. His voice is even slighter than Baker’s—so fragile, in fact, that it often seems on the brink of expiration. Baker used his vocal softness to cunning advantage, creating a befogged sense of mystery often paired with a puckish hint of sin. Barbieri just sounds forlorn. Such relentless ennui works on “I Fall in Love Too Easily” (where his vocal shortcomings are made all the more pronounced by guest duettist Stacey Kent) and “Almost Blue,” but turns more romantic fare—“Time After Time,” “Ev’ry Time We Say Goodbye”—leaden.

Barbieri does, however, deserve bonus points for unearthing a true rarity. Even ardent fans wouldn’t associate the tender “Arrivederci” with Baker. He never recorded it, but he did sing it onscreen in 1960, billed as “Chet l’americano” in the quirky Italian hipster flick Urlatori alla sbarra.

Originally published in November 2013
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