I was searching out some of my favorite Jazz artists on YouTube, when I randomly stumbled across this video of Chet Baker. For those of you unfamiliar with Baker, he was a terrific Trumpet player who was later "discovered" as a wistful blues singer, specializing in ballads and love songs.
Chet Baker’s vocal style is unmistakably unique — my favorite
description of his his voice is "at times, it seems like he’s
hanging onto the melody by his fingernails." He seems at times half a tone off where you might expect him to be.
There is a lovely
melancholy, a gentle beauty, to the way he wraps his voice around a
song. The soft, simple sentiment embodied in his lyrical approach to ballads
can turn any song into a brooding lament.
The video below was rather unusual — I was under the impression that YouTube uploads werew limited to 10 minutes. The following beastie clocks in at 40:30 — Its a compilation featuring Chet playing and singing:
There’s quite a few other videos at ChetBaker.net . . .
Either of these two CDs are good places to start exploring Baker’s works:
"His vocals were absolutely distinctive, sung in a high-pitched, even
fragile voice seemingly drained of emotion and yet possessing an
inherent charm, a detachment that might be both the antithesis of style
and its definition, whether it’s heard as sensitivity or indifference.
The singing is a double of his trumpet playing here, spare and barely
present but achieving much through nuance and suggestion. Pianist Russ
Freeman is an almost constant partner, supplying deft chords and
harmonic daring, amplifying Baker’s ideas. Their empathy is especially
evident in the beautiful instrumental "Moon Love," but it’s just as
significant on signature Baker songs such as "My Funny Valentine,"
"Let’s Get Lost," and "Like Someone in Love." –Stuart Broomer