Jazz

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Chet Happens

10 SEP 10 ANNE FARNSWORTH

Chet Baker personified the paradox of the west coast jazz scene -- sunny California cool underscored with a shady drug culture. It Could Happen To You, showcases the dichotomy of Baker's art, the vulnerable vocalist with the instrumental chops solid enough to make him one of Miles Davis' favorite trumpeters.

There's very little of Baker's trumpet on this release, he scats most of his solos. Instrumentalists are by nature the best scat singers but rarely have professional-quality voices. By focusing on his singing, Riverside may have been banking on Baker's matinee-idol draw. Early in his career, Hollywood came calling. Like his contemporary, James Dean, Baker combined Midwestern good looks with a whiff of danger. But Baker wasn't interested in acting, preferring his musical world.

Backing a vocalist who sings with restraint requires sensitivity and the trio led by pianist Kenny Drew fills the bill. Drew's solos on the uptempo numbers, like "Old Devil Moon" and "You Make Me Feel So Young," are a great counterpoint to Baker's mellow rhythmic approach. On the cuts where Baker pulls out his horn, like "You're Driving Me Crazy," he reminds us that he wasn't just a pretty face, but a solid bebopper with the chops and creativity that made him a standout among his peers.