(via Artie Shaw – “Stardust”)

Year: 1940

“Stardust” is another masterpiece written by the famous Hoosier Hoagy Carmichael, who also wrote one of my favorite Chet Baker recordings. Among the 2,000+ recordings of Carmichael’s song, the piece is often associated with clarinetist and bandleader Artie Shaw, who uses his beloved instrument to inspire a sort of twilight gleam that is both beautiful and lonesome, and it’s in line with the song’s theme of “a song about a song about love.” The piece begins with a solo Billy Butterfield playing an unaccompanied trumpet line that is soon joined by more horns and a string section. Then Shaw comes in with his Clarinet and steals the show with a somewhat formless melody. It’s not easy to whistle to or to play back from memory. That’s part of the song’s magic; it floats around, unreachable by reason but always resounding with the listener.


(via Chet Baker – “I Get Along Without You Very Well”)

Year: 1956

Album: Chet Baker Sings

It starts with stardust keys. A celesta. A wink in some lonesome night. Then a whisper. It’s a man trying to sing, or a woman. Can’t tell from just listening. But it’s Chet. He didn’t write the words – that’d be Jane Brown Thompson – nor did he write the music. That’s Hoagy Carmichael. Both Hoosiers. This kid’s from Oklahoma pretending to be West Coast Cool Kid. Trying to make this Hoosier song his own. That’s his job. Rehearse, jump in, make love, get out. He already has a look and a feel. (“James Dean, Sinatra, and Bix, rolled into one,” says David Gelly). It’s all there. Almost.

Back to the song. It’s a sad song. He’s trying to tell a joke with a frown. The joke’s on him. It always is. Not a lot of time. Start slow. Stay slow. Steady. What’s this song about? Soft rain? The moon? Sure. Why not. Not bad. Steady now. There it goes.

The album is Chet Baker Sings because Chet Baker is a trumpeter, and who in jazz sings man? Baloney. Well Chet Baker does, and it’s not a question of whether or not he’s a good singer. Some think he’s trash. I think he’s lovely. Elton John thought he was trash and lovely. You can exist anywhere on the spectrum and still compel the soul. You just got to sound true and like you mean it, even if you’re faking it. Baker ain’t faking it because his well-known drug problem served as a backdrop for his entire career as the struggle to stay alive just to sing sing sing and play play play. So it goes.