It's no secret that trumpeter (and sometime vocalist) Chet Baker excelled on ballads, so ESSENTIAL STANDARDS, a collection of late-'50s/early-'60s performances for the Riverside label, is pretty much a sure bet for those wishing an entry into the cool-jazz icon's vast body of work. The Riverside dates all vary in personnel--some are small combos, as on CHET, some are accompanied by big band or strings, etc. STANDARDS selects generously from all these dates, and even includes a rare early Mulligan-Baker quartet live version of "My Funny Valentine" from 1952 (sans vocals). Luckily, several Baker vocal selections are included here, mainly from the all-singing IT COULD HAPPEN TO YOU session. Signature tunes such as "Everything Happens To Me" and an eerie "Angel Eyes" from 50 ITALIAN STRINGS are among the highlights.
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AllMusic Review by Richard Mortifoglio