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Chet Baker - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

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Chet Baker
From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Chesney Henry "Chet" Baker, Jr. (December 23, 1929


May 13, 1988) was an American jazz trumpeter,
flugelhornist and vocalist.

Chet Baker

Baker earned much attention and critical praise through


the 1950s, particularly for albums featuring his vocals
(Chet Baker Sings, It Could Happen to You). Jazz
historian David Gelly described the promise of Baker's
early career as "James Dean, Sinatra, and Bix, rolled into
one."[3] His well-publicized drug habit also drove his
notoriety and fame; Baker was in and out of jail
frequently before enjoying a career resurgence in the late
1970s and '80s.[4]
Baker (right) with Stan Getz in 1983

Contents
1 Biography

Background information
Birth name

Chesney Henry Baker

Born

December 23, 1929


Yale, Oklahoma, United States

Died

May 13, 1988 (aged 58)


Amsterdam, Netherlands

Genres

West Coast jazz

Occupation(s)

Musician

Instruments

Trumpet
Vocals

1.1 Early days


1.2 Career breakthrough
1.3 Drug addiction and decline
1.4 Comeback and later career
2 Compositions
3 Death
4 Legacy

Flugelhorn
Piano[1]

5 Honors
6 Discography
7 Filmography
8 Further reading

Years active

194988[2]

Associated acts Gerry Mulligan


Art Pepper

9 References
10 External links

Biography
Early days
Baker was born and raised in a musical household in Yale, Oklahoma; his father, Chesney Baker, Sr., was a
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professional guitar player, and his mother, Vera (ne Moser) was a talented pianist who worked in a perfume
factory. His maternal grandmother, Randi Moser, was Norwegian.[5] Baker began his musical career singing
in a church choir. His father introduced him to brass instruments with a trombone, which was replaced with
a trumpet when the trombone proved too large.
Baker received some musical education at Glendale Junior High School, but left school at age 16 in 1946 to
join the United States Army. He was posted to Berlin, where he joined the 298th Army band. After leaving
the army in 1948, he studied theory and harmony at El Camino College in Los Angeles. He dropped out in
his second year, however, re-enlisting in the army in 1950. Baker became a member of the Sixth Army Band
at the Presidio in San Francisco, but was soon spending time in San Francisco jazz clubs such as Bop City
and the Black Hawk. Baker once again obtained a discharge from the army to pursue a career as a
professional musician.

Career breakthrough
Baker's earliest notable professional gigs were with saxophonist Vido Musso's band, and also with tenor
saxophonist Stan Getz, though he earned much more renown in 1952 when he was chosen by Charlie Parker
to play with him for a series of West Coast engagements.[6]
In 1952, Baker joined the Gerry Mulligan Quartet, which was an instant phenomenon. Several things made
the Mulligan/Baker group special, the most prominent being the interplay between Mulligan's baritone sax
and Baker's trumpet. Rather than playing identical melody lines in unison like bebop giants Charlie Parker
and Dizzy Gillespie, the two would complement each other's playing with contrapuntal touches, and it often
seemed as if they had telepathy in anticipating what the other was going to play next. The Quartet's version
of "My Funny Valentine", featuring a Baker solo, was a hit, and became a tune with which Baker was
intimately associated.[7]
The Quartet found success quickly, but lasted less than a year because of Mulligan's arrest and imprisonment
on drug charges. Baker formed his own quartet with pianist and composer Russ Freeman in 1953, along with
bassists Carson Smith, Joe Mondragon, and Jimmy Bond and drummers Shelly Manne, Larry Bunker, and
Bob Neel. The Chet Baker Quartet found success with their live sets, and they released a number of popular
albums between 1953 and 1956. In 1953 and 1954, Baker won the Down Beat and Metronome magazines'
Readers Jazz Polls, beating out the era's two top trumpeters, Miles Davis and Clifford Brown. Down Beat
readers also voted Baker as the top jazz vocalist in 1954. In 1956, Pacific Jazz released Chet Baker Sings, a
record that increased his profile but alienated traditional jazz fans; he would continue to sing throughout his
career.
Due to Baker's chiseled features, he was approached by Hollywood studios, and he made his acting debut in
the film Hell's Horizon, released in the fall of 1955. He declined an offer of a studio contract, preferring life
on the road as a musician. Over the next few years, Baker fronted his own combos, including a 1955 quintet
featuring Francy Boland, where Baker combined playing trumpet and singing. He became an icon of the
West Coast "cool school" of jazz, helped by his good looks and singing talent. Baker's 1956 recording,
released for the first time in its entirety in 1989 as The Route, with Art Pepper, helped further the West Coast
jazz sound and became a staple of cool jazz.

Drug addiction and decline

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Baker began using heroin in the 1950s, resulting in an addiction that lasted the remainder of his life. At
times, Baker pawned his instruments for money to maintain his drug habit. In the early 1960s, he served
more than a year in prison in Italy on drug charges; he was later expelled from both West Germany and the
UK for drug-related offenses. Baker was eventually deported from West Germany to the United States after
running afoul of the law there a second time. He settled in Milpitas in northern California, where he played
in San Jose and San Francisco between short jail terms served for prescription fraud.[8]
In 1968, Baker was savagely beaten (allegedly while attempting to buy drugs) after a gig in The Trident
restaurant in Sausalito, California sustaining severe cuts on the lips and broken front teeth, which ruined his
embouchure. He stated in the film Let's Get Lost that an acquaintance attempted to rob him one night but
backed off, only to return the next night with a group of several men who chased him. He entered a car and
became surrounded. Instead of rescuing him, the people inside the car pushed him back out onto the street,
where the chase by his attackers continued, and subsequently he was beaten to the point that his teeth, never
in good condition to begin with, were knocked out, leaving him without the ability to play his horn. He took
odd jobs, among them pumping gas. Meanwhile he was fitted for dentures and worked on his embouchure.
Three months later he got a gig in New York.
Between 1966 and 1974, Baker mostly played flugelhorn and recorded music that could mostly be classified
as West Coast jazz.[8]

Comeback and later career


After developing a new embouchure resulting from dentures, Baker
returned to the straight-ahead jazz that began his career. He relocated
to New York City and began performing and recording again,
including with guitarist Jim Hall. Later in the 1970s, Baker returned
to Europe, where he was assisted by his friend Diane Vavra, who
took care of his personal needs and otherwise helped him during his
recording and performance dates.

Baker in Belgium, 1983

From 1978 until his death in 1988, Baker resided and played almost
exclusively in Europe, returning to the US roughly once a year for a
few performances. This was Baker's most prolific era as a recording
artist. However, as his extensive output is strewn across numerous,
mostly small European labels, none of these recordings ever reached
a wider audience, even though many of them were well received by
critics, who maintain that the period was one of Baker's most mature
and rewarding. Of particular importance are Baker's quartet featuring
the pianist Phil Markowitz (197880) and his trio with guitarist
Philip Catherine and bassist Jean-Louis Rassinfosse (198385). He
also toured with saxophonist Stan Getz during this period.

In 1983, British singer Elvis Costello, a longtime fan of Baker, hired


the trumpeter to play a solo on his song "Shipbuilding", from the album Punch the Clock. The song exposed
Baker's music to a new audience. Later, Baker often featured Costello's song "Almost Blue" (inspired by
Baker's version of "The Thrill Is Gone") in his concert sets, and recorded the song for Let's Get Lost, a
documentary film about his life.

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The video material recorded by Japanese television during Baker's 1987 tour in Japan showed a man whose
face looked much older than he was, but his trumpet playing was alert, lively and inspired. Baker recorded
the live album Chet Baker in Tokyo with his quartet featuring pianist Harold Danko, bassist Hein van de
Geyn and drummer John Engels less than a year before his death, and it was released posthumously. Silent
Night, a recording of Christmas music, was recorded with Christopher Mason in New Orleans in 1986 and
released in 1987.

Compositions
Baker's compositions included "Chetty's Lullaby", "Freeway", "Early Morning Mood", "Two a Day", "So
Che Ti Perder" ("I Know I Will Lose You"), "Il Mio Domani" ("My Tomorrow"), "Motivo Su Raggio Di
Luna" ("Tune on a Moon Beam"), "The Route", "Skidadidlin'", "New Morning Blues", "Blue Gilles",
"Dessert", and "Anticipated Blues".

Death
At about 3:00 am on May 13, 1988, Baker was found dead on the
Prins Hendrikkade, near the Zeedijk, the street below his secondstory room of Hotel Prins Hendrik in Amsterdam, the Netherlands,
with serious wounds to his head. Heroin and cocaine were found in
his hotel room, and an autopsy also found these drugs in his body.
There was no evidence of a struggle, and the death was ruled an
accident. A plaque outside the hotel memorializes him and the room
he was staying in, No. 210, is named "The Chet Baker Room".[9]
Baker is buried at the Inglewood Park Cemetery in Inglewood,
California.

Legacy
Baker was photographed by William Claxton for his book Young
Chet: The Young Chet Baker. An Academy Award-nominated 1988
documentary about Baker, Let's Get Lost, portrays him as a cultural
icon of the 1950s, but juxtaposes this with his later image as a drug
Plaque at the Hotel Prins Hendrik, in
addict. The film, directed by fashion photographer Bruce Weber, was
Amsterdam
shot in black-and-white and includes a series of interviews with
friends, family (including his three children by third wife Carol
Baker), associates and women friends, interspersed with film from Baker's earlier life, and with interviews
with Baker from his last years.
Time after Time: The Chet Baker Project, written by playwright James O'Reilly, toured Canada in 2001 to
much acclaim.[10] The musical play Chet Baker Speedball explores aspects of his life and music, and was
premiered in London at the Oval House Theatre in February 2007, with further development of the script
and performances leading to its revival at the 606 Club in the London Jazz Festival of November 2007.

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Baker was reportedly the inspiration for the character Chad Bixby, played by Robert Wagner in the 1960
film All the Fine Young Cannibals.[11] Another film, to be titled Prince of Cool, about Baker's life, was
cancelled as of January 2008.[12]
In 1991, singer/songwriter David Wilcox recorded the song "Chet Baker's Unsung Swan Song" on his album
Home Again, speculating on what might have been Baker's last thoughts before falling to his death. The
song was later covered by k.d. lang as "My Old Addiction" on her 1997 album Drag.
The song "Chet Baker", which appears on the 2007 CD Wally Page and Johnny Mulhern: Live at the
Annesley House, by Irish folk singer-songwriter Wally Page, describes the end of Baker's life in Amsterdam.
Jeroen de Valk has written a biography of Baker which is available in several languages: Chet Baker: His
Life and Music is the English translation.[13] Other biographies include James Gavin's Deep In A Dream
The Long Night of Chet Baker, and Matthew Ruddick's Funny Valentine. Baker's "lost memoirs" are
available in the book As Though I Had Wings, which includes an introduction by Carol Baker.[8]

Honors
In 1987 Chet Baker was inducted into the Big Band and Jazz Hall of Fame.
In 1989 he was elected to Down Beat Jazz Hall of Fame by that magazine's Critics Poll.
In 1991 he was inducted into the Oklahoma Jazz Hall of Fame.
In 2005 Oklahoma Governor Brad Henry and the Oklahoma House of Representatives proclaimed
July 2 as "Chet Baker Day".
In 2007 Mayor of the City of Tulsa, Kathy Taylor, proclaimed December 23 as "Chet Baker Day".

Discography
Filmography
(1959) Audace colpo dei soliti ignoti, by Nanni Loy: music
(1960) Howlers in the Dock, by Lucio Fulci: actor
(1963) Ore rubate, by Daniel Petrie: music
(1963) Tromba Fredda, by Enzo Nasso: actor and music
(1964) Nudi per vivere, by Elio Montesi: music
(1964) Notte pi lunga, by Jos Benazeraf: music
(1988) Let's Get Lost, by Bruce Weber: music

Further reading
Gavin, James. Deep in a Dream: The Long Night of Chet Baker. New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 2002.

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References
1. Jazz Discography Project. "Chet Baker Discography at" (http://www.jazzdisco.org/chet-baker/discography/).
Jazzdisco.org. Retrieved 2013-12-18.
2. Chet Baker. "Allmusic.com" (http://www.allmusic.com/artist/chet-baker-p6049). Allmusic.com. Retrieved
2013-12-18.
3. Gelly, David, Icons of Jazz: A History In Photographs, 19002000, San Diego, Ca: Thunder Bay Books, 2000, ISBN
1-57145-268-0
4. Hip, the history (http://books.google.com/books?
id=oxzubo1GS7oC&pg=PA265&dq=%22Chet+Baker%22+autopsy+OR+coroner&lr=&cd=2#v=onepage&q=%22C
het%20Baker%22%20autopsy%20OR%20coroner&f=false) By John Leland. Harper Collins. p. 265
5. Gavin, J.: Deep In A Dream: The Long Night Of Chet Baker, p.10. Chicago Review Press, 2011
6. Gordon, R.: Jazz West Coast, p. 72. Quartet Books, 1986.
7. "Chet Baker, "My Funny Valentine" - American Songwriter" (http://www.americansongwriter.com/2012/01/chetbaker-my-funny-valentine/). American Songwriter. Retrieved January 21, 2015.
8. Allmusic Biography (http://www.allmusic.com/artist/p6049)
9. Europa. "Janela ou Corredor? O hotel em Amsterd onde Chet Baker se hospedou | Janela ou Corredor?"
(http://janelaoucorredor.com.br/2014/03/21/o-hotel-onde-se-hospedou-chet-baker-em-amsterda/) (in Portuguese).
Janelaoucorredor.com.br. Retrieved 10 March 2015.
10. "Time after time: The Chet Baker project. (Review) (theater review) | Variety | Find Articles at BNET.com"
(http://findarticles.com/p/articles/mi_hb1437/is_200104/ai_n5944153). Findarticles.com. Retrieved 2013-12-18.
11. Margarita Landazuri, "All the Fine Young Cannibals" (http://www.tcm.com/this-month/article/78383%7C0/All-theFine-Young-Cannibals.html), Turner Classic Movies.
12. "MTV Movies Blog " Josh Hartnett Won't Be Getting Jazzed For 'Cool' Chet Baker Flick"
(http://moviesblog.mtv.com/2008/01/31/josh-hartnett-abandons-cool-chet-baker-flick/). Moviesblog.mtv.com.
January 31, 2008. Retrieved 2013-12-18.
13. "Jeroendevalk.nl" (http://www.jeroendevalk.nl/). Jeroendevalk.nl. Retrieved 2013-12-18.

External links
Chet Baker Foundation (http://www.chetbakerjazz.com)
Chet Baker (http://www.imdb.com/name/nm0048329/) at the

Wikimedia Commons has


media related to Chet Baker.

Internet Movie Database


Chet Baker (http://www.findagrave.com/cgi-bin/fg.cgi?page=gr&GRid=8527) at Find a Grave
Encyclopedia of Oklahoma History and Culture Baker, Chet
(http://digital.library.okstate.edu/encyclopedia/entries/B/BA007.html)

Retrieved from "http://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?title=Chet_Baker&oldid=650825846"


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Categories: 1929 births 1988 deaths People from Payne County, Oklahoma
20th-century American singers Accidental deaths in the Netherlands American jazz singers
American jazz trumpeters American male singers American people of Norwegian descent
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People from Milpitas, California Burials at Inglewood Park Cemetery
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