The Prince of cool!
Chet Baker was a trumpeter, most famous for singing the jazz standard My Funny Valentine using a very soft voice.
In the old days, you’d set up a microphone at the front of the room, put the singer close to it, and the drums far away. The rest of the band would line up in order of volume, so you’d literally mix the recording by placing musicians at a suitable distance from the microphone.
It makes sense that the singer, in order to survive this kind of environment, would need to be great at belting it out. Not so with Chet, he’d whisper it!
As long as the band played quietly, this worked and would allow for more sensitivity in the voice to be captured.
Perhaps his skills as a trumpeter allowed him to try this, if a singer had come to the studio whispering, they’d probably been laughed at!
As Chet was already regarded as a fantastic musician, getting him to sing was a bonus, so to speak.
Chet would with another saxophone player, Gerry Mulligan, by using counterpoint harmony and more space, in general with more of a laid-back approach.
Dubbed the prince of cool, Chet clearly appreciated space rather than super-fast Bebop, perhaps this is where his soft singing came from as well, as a reaction to what everyone else was doing at the time.
Clearly, Chet’s playing resonated with more than just critics, he even won readers’ polls in best trumpeter, ahead of Miles Davis in the 50s.
Impossible to not mention in this context is Chet Bakers’ heroin addiction which would see him in and out of hospitals and jail throughout his career. He even got caught in Europe and deported back to the U.S in the 60s.
In the late 70s, Chet had been allowed back into Europe and spent a lot of time there. Unfortunately, he died in Amsterdam in 1988 as he was attempting to get back into his hotel room through a window and fell. There were traces of both cocaine and heroin in his blood.
As a jazz artist, Chet played most standards and is known for his versions of Autumn Leaves, I Fall In Love Too Easy, Stella By Starlight, A Foggy Day, and of course for his singing on My Funny Valentine.
Chet Baker | Tunes
Autumn Leaves – Jazz Standard
| Am7 | D7 | Gmaj7 | Cmaj7 |
The falling leaves drift by my window.
| F#m7b5 | B7 | Em | Em |
The autumn leaves, of red and gold.
Go to Autumn Leaves chords.