Chet Baker: His Life and Music

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Jeroen De Valk

Chet Baker (1929-1988) was a star by the age of twenty-three, winner of all the jazz polls as singer as well as trumpeter. His early promise was frustrated by involvement with drugs, however, and by a popular shift in taste away from the Cool Jazz of the west coast. But, except for a brief period of inactivity, Chet continued to perform for over thirty years--increasingly overseas, and sometimes in poor condition--but always remaining faithful to his original, lyric style. Some of his finest recordings were made shortly before his death. Since then his reputation has recovered and continues to grow, thanks to his colorful life no less than his beautiful music.

Here, for the first time, is the complete story about Chet Baker, from his upbringing in Oklahoma, his introduction to jazz (and junk) in Los Angeles, his early success with the Mulligan Quartet--through the horrific years of addiction, muggings, endless wandering, and jail sentences on both sides of the Atlantic. In between we learn of Chet's marriages and his erratic behavior--but also about his fitful brilliance as a musician, and diffident charm as a man. The author, Jeroen de Valk, dispels persistent myths about Baker, making the case, for instance, that he continued to develop musically throughout his career, however chaotic the circumstances.

The book includes interviews with Chet himself as well as his wife Carol, his manager, and fellow musicians like Lee Konitz, Bud Shank, and Russ Freeman. It includes two up-to-date discographies: a select, narrative one devoted to Chet's best releases, and a complete catalog of his 200+ recordings, rated from one star (Chet's bad days) to five (Baker classics). The text is enhanced by over 40 photos of Baker and his associates.