The Best of Chet Baker Sings
This 1989 compilation, much like its 1992 companion The Best of Chet Baker Plays, gathers tracks from different sessions to paint a portrait of an immortal jazz stylist. The first eight songs and the final six are from Chet Baker Sings (1956), while the middle six are from Chet Baker Sings and Plays (1955). Four tunes from the latter that involved string arrangements got left off, and the omission underscores how different Baker was from the marquee crooners of the day, who were often backed by big orchestras. Baker retained the sensibility of a small-group jazz artist who saw his trumpet improvisations as inseparable from his singing. So on these sessions he did both, imbuing everything with his mellow, casually hip delivery, securing a unique double status as a teen idol and a legit West Coast bebopper. Every melody here is spot-on, and the expressive range, from the almost dirge-like “My Funny Valentine” to the sunny swing of “Let’s Get Lost,” is remarkable.