Once Chet Baker cut his version of My Funny Valentine with Gerry Mulligan, he went from nobody to huge star almost overnight, a rise so meteoric that it, replete as it was with the psychological singularities that came into play with massive adulation, seems to be what clicked his rapid descent into heroin hell, endowing him with the kind of law enforcement inspection and hounding that eventually put Lenny Bruce in the grave. Mulligan himself had been an addict, and Baker would one up him in terms of long-lasting torment but also a surprising record of career revivifications.
Chet was indeed a fine trumpeter, but it was his soft velvety crooning voice that nailed the world's ears to the wall, and he was indeed a global sensation. It didn't hurt, either, that the guy possessed the odd dark intensity of a cross between James Dean and a Bowery Boy, that angel/purgatorial-demon enigma that couldn't help but attract attention. In It could Happen to You, a library of silkily smooth vocal inflections can be unearthed, the sort of tantalizing work that would later be found in Marvin Gaye, Kenny Rankin, and other vocalists whose pipes were adept in mimicking wind instruments, with or without the be-bop and scat.
Perhaps the best gauge of Baker's vocal talent is to cite it as embodying a much more approachable personna than, say, Frank Sinatra, more a Bing Crosby inflection that was fundamentally warm and inviting, a sharing of mutual experiences than a pronouncement falling back into one's own absorption. Didn't hurt, either, that the backing band was a handful of aces: Kenny Drew, Philly Joe Jones, George Morrow, and Sam Jones. And if you want insight into how the process of final outcomes proceeds, compare the original inclusion of The More I See You against Take 8 of the same cut in the bonus tracks. Interesting. Subtle.
Edited by: David N. Pyles
Copyright 2010, Peterborough Folk Music Society.
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