(Chet Baker Sings) It Could Happen To You – Craft Recordings

by | May 4, 2021 | Jazz CD Reviews, SACD & Other Hi-Res Reviews | 0 comments

(Chet Baker Sings) It Could Happen To You – Riverside Records RLP 12-278 (1958)/Craft Recordings CR00357 (2021) 180-gram stereo vinyl, 35:08 ****:

(Chet Baker – trumpet, vocals; Kenny Drew – piano; George Morrow – double bass; Sam Jones – double bass; Danny Richmond – drums; Philly Joe Jones – drums)

As the jazz musical genre evolved in the 1950’s, styles diverged from the idiosyncratic freneticism of bebop. Cool jazz, bop and more fluent modality influenced the transition. Additionally, West Coast jazz introduced a new group of vibrant performers, Among them was a gifted trumpeter, native Oklahoman Chet Baker. His talent was impressive, but would inevitably be compared to Miles Davis. Baker’s commercial marketability and matinee-idol looks earned him both praise and disdain. He flourished as a jazz instrumentalist and surprisingly as a vocalist. This career-defining emergence (although he had recorded some vocal albums previously) was launched at Riverside Records with the release of (Chet Baker Sings) It Could Happen To You in 1958. Baker’s interpretation of pop standards translated into jazz contexts redefined his legacy.

Craft Recordings has released a 180-gram re-mastered vinyl of (Chet Baker Sings) It Could Happen To You. Baker focuses on vocals and manages to inject a jazzy spirit and romantic melancholy to the numbers. Side 1 opens with a lesser-known Rodgers/Hart composition (from Pal Joey), “Do It The Hard Way”. With medium tempo swing, Baker croons and even adds a bit of scat in place of his trumpet (Note: there is limited trumpet play). Kenny Drew is the prime instrumentalist for the arrangement and the other nine cuts. Switching to a Jerome Kern/Johnny Mercer ballad (“I’m Old Fashioned”), Baker distills the gentle flow of the melody (handling the chord changes well) and clever lyrics with his reedy voice. Drew’s right-hand notation is fluid and nimbly caresses the tune. The next selection, “You’re Driving Me Crazy” is anything but obscure. Frank Sinatra, Billie Holiday, Abbe Lane, Keely Smith (and literally over a hundred others) have recorded this toe-tapping standard. The band keeps things lively and Baker mixes in a dish of laid-back ambiance. A certain highlight is Baker laying down a patented “cool” trumpet solo before turning it over to Drew. Another popular jazz standard, “It Could Happen To You” showcases Chet stretching out on a higher register while delivering a solid performance. His cover of Artie Shaw’s “My Heart Stood Still” may not make anyone forget Ella Fitzgerald’s inspired rendition, but is is credible. Baker shines on a muted trumpet solo and Drew’s phrasing is outstanding and complements the vocals. 

The liner notes reference romantic swing. That is very evident on Side 2 as Baker glides through “The More I See You”. Baker (on muted horn) and Drew excel on concise solos as Philly Joe Jones gives a master class on timekeeping. Baker’s restrained vocal persona is framed perfectly by the lyrical whimsy of “Everything Happens To Me”. The gentle swing fits his trumpet stylization. Rodgers and Hart return on “Dancing On The Ceiling”. Baker’s relaxed singing becomes more accessible throughout the album, even if the scat riffs are underwhelming. But this solid combo led by Drew hits the mark every time. There is no popular composer that integrated jazz better than George Gershwin. On the 1928 eternal pleaser, “How Long Has This Been Going On”, the innate strength of the songwriting (chord changes, modulation) elevates Baker’s vocalizing. His “big finish” is impressive. The finale (“Old Devil Moon”) is the most jazzy arrangement on (Chet Baker Sings) It Could Happen To You. Drew’s rhythmic piano and Jones syncopated percussion infuse a dynamic Latin vibe before seamless transitions into straight jazz.

Craft Recordings has done an exceptional job in re-mastering (Chet Baker Sings) It Could Happen To You to 180-gram vinyl. The overall mix Is crisp and balanced. Baker’s quirky voice is captured with warmth and is centered effectively. This is a good jazz vocal album, and has stood the test of time!    

Side 1: Do It The Hard Way; I’m Old Fashioned; You’re Driving Me Crazy; It Could Happen To You; My Heart Stood Still
Side 2: The More I See You; Everything Happens To Me; Dancing On The Ceiling; How Long Has This Been Going On; Old Devil Moon  

—Robbie Gerson

For more information on this and other recordings, please visit Craft Recordings website:

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