Chet Baker



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Few musicians have embodied the romantic, and ultimately tragic, jazz figure as totally as Chesney "Chet" Baker. A fast liver who somehow managed to survive for nearly six decades, the Baker mystique has only reinforced one of the most haunting trumpet styles and ingenuous approaches to jazz singing.
Baker, who never learned to read music, was born in Oklahoma and got his training in army bands. His first big break came through a short tour with Charlie Parker in 1952. Later that year; he began working with Gerry Mulligan in a quartet that established an instant personality through the absence of a piano and the intriguing counterpoint between trumpet and baritone sax. An early recording of "My Funny Valentine" by the Mulligan quartet caused a national sensation and made the fragile sound of Baker's horn emblematic of an entire "cool" attitude.
Collections of highlights and greatest hits by the Quartet are still being reissued and remain popular until this day; compare best of Gerry Mulligan w Chet Baker and The Original Quartet with Chet Baker.
In 1953, Baker began a recording and performing relationship with pianist Russ Freeman that solidified his status as a major jazz star: One key to this success was Baker's singing, which sustained the vulnerability of his trumpet work.  A growing number of drug incidents soon began to overshadow Baker's playing, yet somehow, Baker was able to keep his music under control.

While the cool label became a Baker trademark, he was in fact a modern trumpeter who could play with the hardest boppers, as several recordings made in New York during the late Fifties demonstrate. After living in Europe for a while, Baker returned to the US in 1964, where he made several fine albums with George Coleman and Kirk Lightsey. Then his career seemed permanently ended in 1968, when Baker lost his teeth in an altercation with other junkies in San Francisco. He stopped playing for two years, then resurfaced again in New York in 1973, where he renewed his recording career: Much of his final decade was spent in Europe, often working with a trio completed by guitar and bass. Prior to his mysterious death in Amsterdam, where he felt out of a hotel window, Baker was the subject of Bruce Weber's film Let's Get Lost, a fascinating study of hero worship and self-destruction.

 Recommended recordings

Best of Gerry Mulligan w Chet Baker Blue Note
My Funny Valentine Blue Note
Pacific Jazz Years Blue Note
Chet Baker Quartet featuring Russ Freeman Blue Note 93164
Definitive Blue Note
Prince of Cool Blue Note
Best of Chet Baker Riverside
The Best of Chet Baker sings Paciffic Jazz  7929322
Chet  OJC 087-2 - Riverside 1135
Chet in Paris Vol 1 Emarcy 837 474
Chet in Paris Vol 2 Emarcy 837 475
The Italian Sessions Bluebird 2001
The Best of Chet Baker Plays Blue Note 97161
Quintessence Vol. 1 with Stan Getz Concord
Embraceable You Blue Note 31676
Quartet; Chet Baker & Russ Freeman Blue Note 55453
The Original Quartet with Chet Baker (Gerry Mulligan) Blue Note
In New York (Live) OJC 207-2
In Milan (Live) OJC 370-2
Sings, it Could Happen to You Riverside
The Best of Chet Baker Plays Capitol
Embraceable You Blue Note
Chet Baker in Tokyo (Live) Evidence Music
Carnegie Hall Concert (Live) with Gerry Mulligan Columbia
The Legacy Vol 1. Enja
Baby Breeze Verve
Gerry Mulligan Quartet with Chet Baker Giants of Jazz
Reunion ( Gerry Mulligan) Blue Note
The Route; with Art Pepper Blue Note
Picture of Heath; with Art Pepper Blue Note
West Coast Live with Stan Getz Blue Note
The Stockholm Concerts with Stan Getz (Live) Verve
Out of Nowhere Blue Note
You can't go Home Again / The Best Thing for You Verve
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