Johnny Pace

Chet Baker Introduces Johnny Pace

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The liner notes begin with this sentence: "It's hard to think of this album as anything short of the first major step towards real success for the exciting and appealing young singer being introduced here." Oh, well. The fact that Pace ended up, at best, a minor footnote in jazz history doesn't detract at all from the significant pleasures to be had on his 1958 debut. Supported by the Chet Baker Quintet (which at this point included flutist Herbie Mann, pianist Joe Berl, bassist Jimmie Burke, and, depending on the recording date, either Ed Thigpen or Philly Joe Jones on drums), Pace delivers a winning program of standards in a style that owes an obvious debt to Frank Sinatra, but distinguishes itself by means of fruitier tone and an occasionally pronounced vibrato. His renditions of "The Way You Look Tonight" and "It Might as Well Be Spring" are both completely charming, and the band supports him beautifully -- special kudos go to Mann, whose dry, swinging flute tone complement's Pace's voice perfectly. Recommended.

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