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Music Review: Chet Baker – It Could Happen To You

Original Jazz Classics has expanded their series with five new titles: Boss Guitar by Wes Montgomery, Cast Your Fate To The Wind by the Vince Guaraldi Trio, Waltz For Debby by the Bill Evans Trio, Dig by Miles Davis featuring Sonny Rollins, and the subject of this review, Chet Baker’s It Could Happen To You.

Chet Baker had two advantages over many of his jazz contemporaries. He had matinee looks and he could sing. It was his one bad habit, heroin, which would shorten his productive career, his life, and ultimately make him one of the forgotten fifties superstars of jazz.

His Oklahoma father was a guitarist, but the trumpet would be Baker’s instrument of choice. He would hone his skills as a member of The United States Army Band before moving on to play with Stan Getz during the early fifties. He joined the Gerry Mulligan Quartet in 1952 and while his time with the group may have been brief, it was productive and he would emerge a superstar. By the mid-fifties, he was fronting his own groups.

1958 was the crossroad of Baker’s career. Chet, released early in the year, focused on his considerable trumpet skills. It Could Happen To You, released later in the year, was a vocal album with his trumpet used as a support instrument. They are highlights of his career and are nice companion pieces which compliment each other well.

The title song is a tour de force. His scatting and tone is similar to his trumpet playing in sound and style. Tracks such as “Do It The Hard Way,” “My Heart Stood Still,” “The More I See You,” and “Old Devil Moon” are subtle and laid back. His phrasing is impeccable and his tone always right on.

Baker surrounded himself with a small but talented group. His basic band of the day was pianist Kenny Drew, bassist George Morrow, and drummer Philly Joe Jones. Drummer Dannie Richmond and bassist Sam Jones are replacements on some of the tracks.

As with all the releases in the series, there are a number of bonus tracks. Here there is a generous selection of alternate takes covering four songs and fifteen minutes. The original liner notes are included, plus an informative booklet.

Chet Baker would later tragically die during 1988 when he fell out of a hotel window in The Netherlands. It Could Happen To You catches him at age 29 before heroin had affected his health and talent level. It remains as fresh as an ocean breeze over a half century after its original release.

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