Plays the Best of Lerner & Loewe

Chet Baker

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Plays the Best of Lerner & Loewe Review

by Lindsay Planer

This is one of the last Chet Baker (trumpet) long players recorded in the States prior to the artist relocating to Europe in the early '60s. Likewise, the eight-tune collection was the final effort issued during his brief association with the Riverside Records imprint. The project was undoubtedly spurred on by the overwhelming success of the Shelly Manne-led combo that interpreted titles taken from the score to My Fair Lady (1956). In addition to becoming an instant classic, Manne's LP was also among of the best-selling jazz platters of all time. While Baker and crew may have gained their inspiration from Manne, these readings are comparatively understated. That said, the timelessness of the melodies, coupled with the assembled backing aggregate, make Chet Baker Plays the Best of Lerner and Loewe (1959) a memorable concept album. Although Alan Jay Lerner and Frederick Loewe had produced a number of well-received and luminous entries, half of the material on this disc is derived from My Fair Lady (1956). "I've Grown Accustomed to Her Face" is given a languid torch song treatment that spirals around Baker's cool inconspicuous leads, featuring some equally sublime contributions from Zoot Simms (alto sax/tenor sax). This contrasts the resilient and free-spirited waltz on "I Could Have Danced All Night," which benefits from Herbie Mann's (flute) breezy counterpoint and solo. Bill Evans (piano) also lays down some tasty licks over top of the solid rhythm of Earl May (bass) and Clifford Jarvis (drums). "On the Street Where You Live" is a highlight, as the personnel take the time to stretch out and thoroughly examine with some key counterpoint between Baker's honey-toned horn and Pepper Adams' (baritone sax) husky and ample involvement. Of the non-My Fair Lady sides, "The Heather on the Hill" and a superior "Almost Like Being in Love" hail from Brigadoon (1947), while the scintillating and smoldering "Thank Heaven for Little Girls" comes from Gigi (1958). Not to be missed is "I Talk to the Trees," with an unhurried and evenly measured tempo that is coupled to Baker's austere, yet rich and purposeful lines. In 2004, Chet Baker Plays the Best of Lerner and Loewe was remastered utilizing 20-bit analog-to-digital signal conversion for optimum audio.

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