Chet Baker Sings “Almost Blue”

chet baker 1983
Chet Baker, 1983 (image:Michiel Hendryckx)

Listen to this track by James Dean-meets-Sinatra-meets-Bix-Beiderbecke jazz amalgam and legend in his own right Chet Baker. It’s “Almost Blue”, a latter-day standard for Baker as featured prominently in the film Let’s Get Lost and also featured on the live album Chet Baker Live In Tokyo, recorded in 1987 and released posthumously the next year. 

That movie was a documentary about Baker, who had risen in prominence in the fifties, initially in his associations with baritone saxophonist Gerry Mulligan, and with the West Coast jazz scene in general. But, Baker had also played with east coast musicians, too, including Charlie Parker and Miles Davis. Baker had even caught the eye of the movie industry, thanks to his almost supernatural good looks. In addition to all of that, Baker was a gifted trumpeter, and hauntingly nuanced vocalist. He was known for his melancholic tone with both voice and instrument, making his name by playing standards that were tinged with tragedy; “You Don’t Know What Love Is”, “The Thrill Is Gone”, and “I Get Along Without You Very Well”, being prime examples.

Maybe that’s why this tune, written by Elvis Costello with Chet Baker in mind, fit so well into his musical wheelhouse, eventually becoming a stalwart concert favourite during the last phase of his career. Yet, the theme of dissatisfaction and loss seemed to go beyond the material. Baker seems to embody it, and for good reason. By the eighties, Baker had seen it all. To many, it was a miracle that he would be able to tell about it, probably including Chet Baker. Read more