It Could Happen to You: CHET BAKER Sings
Chet Baker (tp, vcl) Kenny Drew (p) Gorge Morrow or Sam Jones (b) Danny Richmond (drs)
New York; August, 1958
1. Do It the Hard Way (2:57) (Rodgers & Hart)
2. I'm Old Fashioned (5:00) (Mercer – Kern)
3. You're Driving Me Crazy (2:52) (Walter Donaldson)
4. It Could Happen to You (2:48) (Burke – Van Heusen)
5. My Heart Stood Still (3:24) (Rodgers & Hart)
1. The More I See You (3:01) (Gordon – Warren)
2. Everything Happens to Me (5:01) (Matt Dennis)
3. Dancing on the Ceiling (3:05) (Rodgers & Hart)
4. How Long Has This Been Going On (4:06) (George & Ira Gershwin)
5. Old Devil Moon (2:54) (Harburg – Lane)
There is an old axiom that can be phrased this way: “Every jazzman who’s worth his salt, no matter what horn he plays, is a singer.” Unlike lots of old axioms, particularly those having to do with jazz, there is much truth in this one. Its implications are two-fold: that a good jazzman plays in a style that literally “sings,” and also that a great many musicians, whether or not they have trained or “good” voices in the conventional sense, can use their vocal chords to produce music of a superior kind.
It is the second point that concerns us here, for this is an album in which (although he does play his distinctive and appealing brand of trumpet on most selections) it is primarily CHET BAKER the singer who is being presented.
The tradition of the jazzman-as-vocalist probably begins with Louis Armstrong. From Louis’ New Orleans trumpet and gravel voice to the cool vocal and horn sounds of Chet is a long, long leap in both years and styles. Yet both strand as notable examples of the proof of our axiom. But there is this important distinction: while there were, and are, countless musician-singers who can be called either followers or imitators of Armstrong, Backer stands alone among modern jazzmen in having achieved major success both as player and singer.
There is still another aspect to Chet’s continuation of a long-standing vocal tradition. On three numbers here (Do It the Hard Way, Dancing on the Ceiling and It Could Happen to You), he introduces his own variation on the art of scat-singing, reputedly introduced by Armstrong three decades ago. But, rather than resorting to the “bli-bla” type of nonsense syllable, Baker makes these choruses intriguingly close vocal approximations of a ‘blowing’ trumpet chorus, a sort of half-way point between his playing and singing.
There is the sort of consistency you’d expect in the stylistic similarity between Chet’s singing, playing and wordless vocalizing: all have the same straight-toned styling, with almost no vibrato (except for that characteristic, with just a flick of quick vibrato). However, since this is what is labelled a “West Coast” style – and since that term carries with it a connotation of “cool” and “emotionless” music – it is necessary to point out that the impact of Chet’s singing is anything but cold. There is, in his subdued sound, a considerable feeling of warmth and intimacy. Actually, Chet has for some time been strongly interested in emphasizing a more swinging musical approach, and the occasion of his first album for Riverside provided an excellent opportunity to put this into effect. Thus he surrounded himself with a rhythm section quite representative of the New York school at its best, so that the resulting album is one that does stress the warmth and lilt and beat of the Baker voice and indicates how well he reacts to this type of winging musical stimulus.
The numbers selected for the LP are standards of the sort that lend themselves particularly well to what might as well be called the “swinging-romantic” approach. Most of them manage to fall into that rare and attractive category of songs that everybody knows and loves but that have not, as yet, been done to death by over-frequent performance. The only really non-familiar item in the album is an unaccountably overlooked song from the classic Rodgers and Hart “Pal Joey” score: the sparkling Do It the Hard Way. And after Chet’s treatment of it as the lead-off selection here, it is unlikely to remain overlooked.
CHET BAKER was born in Yale, Oklahoma, in December of 1929. His earliest experience was in Army bands, both military and dance: and (as everyone must know) his first burst of fame came as a member of Gerry Mulligan’s original pianoless quartet. He went on to win top trumpet honors in the Down Beat polls of 1953 and ’54, and in the ’54 and ’55 Metronome polls, and has for several years been leading his own highly successful groups.
KENNY DREW is a young New York-born pianist who is recognized as one of the most tasteful and most winging of current East Coast jazzmen. As this LP demonstrates, his talents also include extremely sensitive accompaniment. He has recorded frequently for Riverside, as has Philly Joe Jones, who has worked with Chet’s quintet but is undoubtedly best known for his long association with Miles Davis. (To those who consider Philly a ‘heavy’ drummer, the subtlety and control of his accompaniment here may come as something of a surprise.)
DANNY RICHMOND is a promising young drummer who has worked with Chet and with Charlie Mingus. George Morrow (whose credits include that Max Roach Quintet) and Sam Jones (who has been with Cannonball Adderley and Dizzy Gillespie) are among the East’s firmest and most able bassists.
(Personnel shifts in Chet’s accompaniment here are as follows: Drew appears on all selections. Morrow and Philly Joe Jones are on Side 2, #1 and 5. Sam Jones and Richmond are on Side 1, #3 and 4; Side 2, #4.)
Chet Baker also be heard on Riverside on –
CHET BAKER in New York; with Johnny Griffin, Al Haig, Paul Chambers, Philly Joe Jones (RLP 12-281)
Drew’s own Riverside jazz albums are –
‘Pal Joey’: jazz impressions by the KENNY DREW Trio (RLP 12-249)
This Is New: KENNY DREW, with Donald Byrd, Hank Mobley (RLP 12-236)
KENNY DRWE Trio; with Philly Joe Jones, Paul Chambers (RLP 12-224)
Other jazz-vocal albums of unusual interest include –
It’s Magic: ABBEY LINCOLN; with Benny Golson, Kenny Dorham, Art Farmer (RLP 12-277)
That’s Him: ABBEY LINCOLN; with Sonny Rollins, Max Roach (RLP 12-251)
This Is the Moment: KENNY FORHAM sings & Plays; with Curtis Fuller (RLP 12-275)
The extensive Riverside jazz catalogue also features such outstanding LPs as –
Mulligan Meets Monk: GERRY MULLIGAN and THELONIOUS MONK (RLP 12-247)
Thelonious in Action: THELONIOUS MONK Quartet at the Five Spot Café; with Johnny Griffin (RLP 12-262)
Monk’s Music: THELONIOUS MONK Septet; with Coleman Hawkins, John Coltrane, Art Blakey (RLP 12-242)
MAX ROACH New Quintet (RLP 12-280)
Freedom Suite: SONNY ROLLINS (RLP 12-258)
The Sound of Sonny: SONNY ROLLINS (RLP 12-241)
Portrait of Cannonball: JULIAN ADDERLEY Quintet (RLP 12-269)
2 Horns / 2 Rhythm: KENNY DORHAM, with Ernie Henry (RLP 12-255)
JOHNNY GRIFFIN Sextet; with Donald Byrd, Pepper Adams (RLP 12-264)
Way Out: JOHNNY GRIDDIN Quartet, with Kenny Drew, Philly Joe Jones, Wilbur Ware (RLP 12-274)
In Orbit: CLRK TERRY Quartet featuring Thelonious Monk; with Philly Joe Jones, Sam Jones (RLP 12-271)
Duke with a Difference: CLARK TERRY, with Johnny Hodges, Paul Gonsalves (RLP 12-246)
The Modern Touch: BENNY GOLSON Sextet; with J. J. Johnson, Kenny Dorham, Max Roach (RLP 12-256)
A HIGH FIDELITY Recording – Riverside-Reeves SPECTROSONIC High Fidelity Engineering
(Audio Compensation: RIAA Curve)
Produced by BILL GRAUER
Cover by PAUL WELLER (photography) and PAUL BACON (design)
Engineer: JACK HIGGINS (Reeves Sound Studios)
(Sweaters in cover photo by Sig Buchmayr, 16 East 50th Street, New York City
RIVERSIDE RECORDS are released by BILL GRAUER PRODUCTIONS, Inc.
553 West 51st Street New York 19, N.Y.