© - Steven A. Cerra, copyright protected; all rights reserved.
“In 1953, upon the success of his best-selling recording of "My Funny Valentine" with the Gerry Mulligan Quartet, Chet Baker became an instant star. He began winning polls here and abroad with rhythmic regularity for five .years. His "Valentine" solo was soft and lyrical. Lyricism seemed to be Baker's stock in trade, although he was capable of playing crackling bop lines of great intricacy and inventiveness.
And he sang. He sang with.. .well, let Rex Reed describe it... "an innocent sweetness that made girls fall right out of their saddle oxfords." Before he had time to digest the fact of his sudden celebrity as a trumpet soloist, Chet found himself winning polls as a vocalist. In one, he was tied with Nat Cole. From obscurity to status among the jazz public as a more popular trumpet player than Louis Armstrong, Dizzy Gillespie and Miles Davis, and as a singer the equal of Nat King Cole. All in the space of slightly more than a year.”
- Doug Ramsey
Was there ever a more photogenic Jazz musician than Chet Baker?
Despite the ravages of time accelerated by an unhealthy lifestyle [or maybe because of it?], Chet seemed to maintain a welcoming presence in front of the camera.
In some cases, this may have more the result of the skills of the photographer than Chet photographable qualities.
Musically, one thing is certain, Doug Ramsey is right when he states that … “Lyricism seemed to be Baker's stock in trade.”
You can judge both his lyricism and his camera-friendly qualities for yourself by sampling the following video in which Chet sings and plays “With a Song In My Heart.” [Click on the “X” to close-out the ads when they appear on the video].