BY: SAEED ALMESAFRI
Chesney Henry "Chet" Baker, Jr. was an outstanding American jazz trumpeter, flugelhornist and a vocalist who gained fame during the early fifties. Though he was a talented performer, his talent and life was destroyed by the evil of drugs.
Chet Baker was born on December 23, 1929 on a farm on the outskirts of Yale, Oklahoma. Later, shifted to Los Angeles with his parents at the age of 10. Baker, who was privileged with a musical family background enters the musical world when he was a kid. He marks his entrance to the world of music by joining the church choir team. He was introduced to playing trombone by his father who himself was a professional ...view middle of the document...
One major reason for their early success was the dynamic combination that they had. Eventhough the pair gained early success, it lasted less than a year due to the arrest of Mulligan on drug charges. Due to this dissolution, Baker forms his own quartet with Russ Freemen, Carson Smith, Joe Mondragon, jimmy Bond, Shelly Manne, Larry Bunker and Bob Neel. Once again Bakers team had tremendous early success through the live performances and also through the albums produces in between 1953 and 1956. Due to this success, he was names Metronome magazine's top trumpeter in 1953. He achieved this beating the era’s best trumpeters Miles Davis and Clifford Brown. This was a significant milestone in his career. He was also gifted with a delicate voice which later helped in producing some high quality vocals such as “Let’s get lost” and many more. In addition he also enhanced and grabbed international attention through European tours in 1955 and in 1956. His movie star looks were tackled by the Hollywood movie makers in 1955, where he made his debut acting in the movie Hell’s horizon. He then became an idol of the West Coast "cool school" of jazz. Even though he was in the run for fame, he was stuck by the evil of drugs.
During 1950s, Baker started using heroin which resulted to be his greatest lifetime addiction. He lost his valuables including his instruments to buy drugs, he was put into prison for drug-related offenses in Italy. He was deported from West Germany to the US because of drugs. He settled in Milpitas, Northern California. He was also assaulted while trying to buy drugs at a restaurant and hence his embouchure was ruined. After developing a new embouchure resulting from dentures he got back to Jazz and started performing again pursuing his career. He partnered with guitarist Jim Hall. After sometime he went back to Europe and started performing and recording and was also assisted by one of his friends namely Diane Vavra. From 1978 his life became more prosperous and brought about a lot of fame. His era starting from 1978 until his death was considered to be prolific, his recording reached a wider audience than never before. Most importantly his quartet featuring pianist Phil Markowitz and his trio with guitarist Philp Catherine and bassist Jean-Louis Rassinfosse were a mega hit. Baker also recoreded a live album in Tokyo featuring his own name Chet Baker. Baker's compositions included "Chetty's Lullaby", "Freeway", "Early Morning Mood", "Two a Day", "So Che Ti Perderò" ("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".
On May 13th, 1988 , Baker was found dead on the Prins Hendrikkade, near the Zeedjik, the street below his second- story room of Hotel Prins Hendrik in Amsterdam, the Netherlands. Postmortem showed the use of drugs in his body before death. Wounds and injuries...