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Chet Baker: Songs for Lovers

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From the moment Baker began getting attention as a member of Gerry Mulligan’s quartet 45 years ago the merits and faults of his singing and trumpeting have been overstated. Obviously Baker was not one of the best jazz trumpet players when he was placing high in magazine polls during the ’50s. But he was a distinctive, lyrical player who did not deserve the brickbats heaved at him during the ’60s because his vocal and instrumental work wasn’t loud or aggressive enough.

This CD contains attractive examples of Baker’s 1953-7 efforts with various groups. His melodic lower and medium register trumpet work deserves praise as does his fresh, youthful singing. There are lovely versions of standards here during which Baker does a fine job of focusing listener attention on the lyrics.

Other highlights include the rugged, intelligent soloing of pianist Russ Freeman, the only pianist I know of to be influenced by the great, unsung Joe Albany. Freeman later independently developed in the early 1950s a style like Horace Silver’s and deserves far more attention.