Having been reissued numerous times over the years under various titles, this Bluebird version of Chet Is Back! stands out as the definitive packaging of one of Chet Baker's best early-'60s recordings. Besides featuring the original artwork and liner notes – as well as detailed new liner notes from James Gavin, author of Deep in a Dream: The Long Night of Chet Baker – the real impetus to pick this up is the inclusion of four orchestral pop singles Baker recorded with Ennio Morricone around the same time as the album. Never before released in the U.S., these tracks were purportedly composed by the trumpeter/vocalist while serving jail time in Lucca, Italy after obtaining fake drug prescriptions.
The story of this reissue reads like a movie: Chet Baker, the James Dean-meets-Miles Davis trumpeter moved to Rome in 1962. He gets arrested for buying dope, learns Italian in jail, and records a jazz album with the future spaghetti western composer, Ennio Morricone. Reissued in crystal clear digital sound, Baker's wispy, Milesian trumpet tunes float over several, combo-driven renditions of several and bop standards including Charlie Parker's "Barbados," Thelonious Monk's "Well, You Needn't," and the evergreen "Over the Rainbow." ~ Amazon
Although they have common recording origins, two of the three singles, "It's Now or Never" and "Are You Lonesome Tonight," were very quirky by the standards of Elvis songs at the time – the former inspired by Elvis's admiration for Tony Martin's 1949 hit "There's No Tomorrow," while the latter was recorded at the request of Col. Parker as a favor to his wife. They add to the diversity of sounds on this record, which shows a mature Elvis Presley…
Chet Baker was a primary exponent of the West Coast school of cool jazz in the early and mid-'50s. As a trumpeter, he had a generally restrained, intimate playing style and he attracted attention beyond jazz for his photogenic looks and singing. But his career was marred by drug addiction. Baker's father, Chesney Henry Baker,Sr., was a guitarist who was forced to turn to other work during the Depression; his mother, Vera (Moser) Baker, worked in a perfumery. The family moved from Oklahoma to Glendale, CA, in 1940. As a child, Baker sang at amateur competitions and in a church choir.
Chet Baker Quartet Featuring Russ Freeman (1998) is a perfect studio companion to the Mosaic Records set Complete Pacific Jazz Live Recordings of Chet Baker With Russ Freeman (1988). As was the custom for jazz platters of the time, both Baker and Freeman are joined by a different combo on each date. The luminaries include Bobby Whitlock (bass), Joe Mondragon (bass), Bobby White (bass), Larry Bunker (drums) and Shelly Manne (drums) from sessions held circa July and October of 1953.
If you're a romantic with a yen for lush and dreamy music, "With Fifty Italian Strings" is the album for you. Chet Baker's trumpet soliloquizes over the aforementioned strings in carefree yet deliberate phrases. His voice glides smoothly and effortlessly over the legato accompaniment, while the arrangements are never too dense, weighty or dramatic.