Chesney Henry Baker, Jr. Born Dec 23, 1929 in Yale, OK. Died May 13, 1988 in Amsterdam, The Netherlands.
Popular cool-toned trumpeter and a fragile singer whose charisma made up for his limited voice, with his good looks Chet Baker probably could have been a movie star. Instead he became a drug addict in the mid-'50s and had an extremely erratic lifestyle with horrific episodes alternating with some wonderful musical moments.
Chet Baker certainly started out on top. After getting out of the Army, he gigged with Charlie Parker on the West Coast in 1952 and then joined the Gerry Mulligan Quartet, a pianoless unit that soon became among the most popular in jazz. After Mulligan was jailed for his own drug problems, Baker (who had helped make "My Funny Valentine" into a hit) formed a quartet with pianist Russ Freeman. He began to win polls on both trumpet and vocals, toured Europe in 1955 and seemed on his way to a lucrative career. But by 1960 Baker was in an Italian jail and, although he made a few worthy recordings in the '60s, by the end of the decade his teeth had been knocked out after a botched drug deal and he was out of music.
Against all odds Chet Baker made a gradual comeback in the 1970s. Although Baker recorded far too much during his final 15 years, his nomadic lifestyle (never kicking drugs and essentially wandering all over Europe) was unstable and his occasional vocals (always an acquired taste) were generally poor, his trumpet playing actually improved as the decade progressed. In fact despite everything, Chet Baker was still in his musical prime when he fell out of a second story window (pushed or slipped?) to his death in 1988. He remains one of the great cult figures of jazz. -- Scott Yanow,


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