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Why Does Chet Baker Matter? [Copy link] 中文

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Post time 2018-12-20 09:58:45 |Display all floors
This post was edited by wchao37 at 2018-12-20 18:36

Why does Chet Baker matter?

Other than music played on Chinese instruments such as Erhu, I like Jazz music played by Chet Baker.  You should try listening to it sometimes.-- long-lost lovers can wax nostalgic and long-missed music can move you to tears.

Chesney Henry (Chet) Baker (December23, 1929 – May 13, 1988) matters because the jazz trumpeter and vocalist has become a cult figure whose artistry evinces a cogent message about his interpretation for the meaning of life itself.  The spontaneity of attraction that persisted throughout his career results from the conversational, organic and fluid phrasing he used as a trumpeter, and his cool attitude that pervaded his vocal and instrument – both of which touch the hearts of many people when they need something soothing in their lives.

This is evidenced by the fact that on May 2, 2018, the Forli Jazz Festival in Italy-- a country which had sent him to jail several times including a stint for 18 months for drug-related convictions – was held in his honor 30 years after his death.  Other posthumous honors included Chet Baker Day proclaimed by Oklahoma Governor Brad Henry and the Oklahoma House of Representatives in 2005; and the Chet Baker Jazz Festival in his honor in Yale, Oklahoma, on October 10, 2015.  

The man was a primary exponent of the West Coast school of cool jazz in the 1950s. Jazz as a musical form of African Americans, was influenced by both European harmonic structure and African rhythms and developed partially from ragtime and blues. Baker had a strained, intimate playing style as a trumpeter, and he attracted attention beyond jazz for his photogenic looks and whisper-voiced, romantic singing. With his career often curtailed by drug addiction, Baker was frequently jailed both in the U.S. and in Europe before he managed a comeback in the 1970s and'80s.  

His music is illustrated by the lyrics of his song I’ve Never Been in Love Before:

I've never been in love before,
Now all at once it's you,
It's you for ever more
I've never been in love before,
I thought my heart was safe,
I thought I knew the score
But this is wine,
It's all so strange and strong,
I'm full of foolish song,
And out my song must pour
So please forgive this helpless haze I'm in,
I've really never been in love before
But this is wine,
It's all so strange and strong,
I'm full of foolish song,
And out my song must pour
So please forgive this helpless haze I'm in,
I've really never been in love before

The video accompanying these lyrics is nothing more than the footage of an old Chrysler Plymouth rushing back and forth with the words Drag Wagons Car Club painted on its side, but because Baker’s unique tone accompanying the video is so plaintive and fragile, the viewer is impacted by the stark contrast between the two.  

This effect is also seen in his other works including The Two Lonely People (with Bill Evans), Everytime We Say Goodbye I Waited for You and Alone Together.  Still, his 1954 recording of “Let’s Get Lost,” a romantic ballad that took on new connotations when sung by Baker, became the song most connected to him.

In a documentary made a year before Baker died and released in theaters posthumously on April 21, 1989, director Bruce Weber showed how Baker had long been ravaged by heroin.  The film shows that cool was fashionable in the 1950s and Chet Baker with his chiseled good looks was just what people wanted.  Jazz historian Dave Kelly described the promise of Baker's early career as "James Dean, Sinatra and Bix, all rolled into one.”

However, author De Valk criticized the film for presenting Baker as a dysfunctional musician in his later years. The film was made in the first half of 1987 and ignores later events such as the Japanese concert.

After starting with the trumpet, he learned to play it so well that peers called Baker a natural musician to whom playing came effortlessly.  Baker received some musical education at Glendale Junior High School, El Camino College in Los Angeles, and then he enlisted in various military posts in Europe and then the Presidio in San Francisco.  He was discharged from the Army in 1951 and proceeded to pursue a career in music. His performance with Stan Getz led him to be chosen by Charlie Parker for a series of West Coast engagements.

That summer in 1952, he began playing in the Gerry Mulligan Quartet, a group featuring only baritone sax, trumpet, bass, and drums, but without piano. With Mulligan’s imprisonment on drug charges, Baker formed a solo quartet with a rotation of other musicians,and gradually his fame arose so that in 1954, readers named Baker the top jazz vocalist. He even had an acting debut in the film Hell's Horizon released in the fall of 1955, but he declined to sign any studio contracts and preferred freedom as a roaming musician.

So in 1956 he completed an eight-month tour of Europe, where he recorded Chet Baker in Europe.  Sometimeshe was so out that he had to pawn his instruments to buy drugs, and during the 1960s, he had variously been incarcerated in Italy, Germany and the UK on drug-related offenses, and even confinement in a sanatorium.              

In 1966, Baker was mugged, allegedly while trying to buy heroin, after performing at the Trident Restaurant in Sausalito, California. He sustained cuts and some of his teeth were knocked out, ruining his embouchure and leaving him unable to play trumpet. He worked at a gas station until he decided that he had to find a way to return to music. So after developing a new embouchure resulting from dentures, Baker returned to the straight-ahead jazz that began his career.  

He moved 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. Baker lived and played almost exclusively in Europe in the decade 1977-87, returning to the U.S. once a year for several performances. This was Baker's most prolific era as a recording artist. The video material recorded by Japanese television during Baker's 1987 tour in Japan resulted in his live album Chet Baker in Tokyo less than a year before his death, and it was released posthumously.

Baker's cult following increased after his death with the release of director Bruce Weber’s biographical documentary Let’s Get Lost (1988) and Baker’s own unfinished memoirs, As Though I Had Wings (1997).  Early on May 13,1988, Baker was found dead on the street below his third-floor hotel room in Amsterdam, with serious wounds to his head, and drugs were found in his room and in his body. There was no evidence of foul play, and the death was deemed an accident. Today a plaque outside the hotel Prins Hendrik in Amsterdam memorializes him.

In retrospect, we can see that Baker was a highly complex artist whose art was based exclusively on simplicity. ''I don't know whether I'm a trumpet player who sings or a singer who plays the trumpet,'' he once said.  Called the "Prince of Cool," Baker made significant accomplishments, and his resurgence meant that although his drug problems were significant, they didn't negate his distinct phrasing and charismatic artistry.

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Post time 2018-12-20 13:45:13 |Display all floors
He is quite a guy -- having spent many years of his life in jail due to heroin use.  He just couldn't live without it.  But his music is something else.  So soft that you feel relaxed.  If you have access to you.tu.be.dot c.o.m. check him out.

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Post time 2018-12-20 17:24:59 |Display all floors
Even though his death was ruled an accident, many thought he committed suicide.  Weird thing was that he was found on the pavement and no one recognized him at the time.

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