Chet Baker is one of my all-time favourites and recently I have been on a little binge-listen of the “The Last Great Concert” recordings. The recordings with Big Band and Strings, recorded in 1988 only weeks before his death, feature him in great form.
The concert itself was a hugely ambitious project, given Baker’s reputation for unreliability. To back Baker: a big band and a full orchestra on stage at the same time, in addition to a jazz quartet. Baker didn’t show up for rehearsals, and he didn’t arrive at the concert hall until the afternoon of the show. In spite of that, he—and by turns the orchestra and big band and quintet—sounds marvelous. Baker fits his solos into the arrangements seamlessly.
In times, in which, at least it feels like, Jazz is getting more complicated, intellectual, but in my opinion not always more beautiful, it is great to listen to listen to these recordings which are plain, great music.
I have never been able to find them on Spotify (and still am not), but I found both recording available to play on Google Play Music. You can listen to Vol.1 My Favourite Songs here, and Vol.2 – Straight from the Heart here.