Chesney Henry “Chet” Baker Jr. (December 23, 1929 – May 13, 1988, Age 58) was an American jazz trumpeter and vocalist. He is known for major innovations within the cool jazz subgenre leading him to be nicknamed the “prince of cool”.
I have to admit, that while I know many of Chet recordings, I know very little about the man. I’ve avoided watching the Bruce Weber “Let’s Get Lost” bio-pic, it’s been on my amazon prime queue for 3+ years. I knew it would be sad, and like many people that met Chet and were in his life, it would also be frustrating. I think though, after watching the two videos here, and ready for it.
The CTI recordings
Chet recorded a lone studio album, for CTI, “She Was Good To Me“. He went on to make other studio recordings, and a live album release on CTI.
The recording of “She Was Good To Me” started recording in July of 1974, and was finished off on October 31st, and November 1st. Later in November, Baker would be coaxed into a reunion performance with Gerry Mulligan, two of the 1950’s west coast jazz stars, and Baker had played in Mulligans Quartet. The concert on November 24th at Carnegie Hall in New York City would spawn a CTI double album, that would be release as two single volumes, and then re-issued as a double album.
Doug Ramsey’s liner notes make interesting reading, he says “there was enough tension backstage to make things fairly interesting, a near fist fight.”
Baker would be back in Rudy Van Gelder’s Englewood Cliffs studio in April 1975 to be record with Jim Hall on his “Concierto” album. It wouldn’t be until March and April of 1982 that Baker would be back recording for CTI, this time with Hall and Hubert Laws for “Studio Trieste.”
Englewood Cliffs would again see Baker recording, this time with Roland Hanna in June and July 1982, on Hanna’s “Gershwin Carmichael Cats” album. Bakers contribution to “Skylark” makes the album for me. I’d had the album for a number of years, and only recently decided to digitize it. It seems damaged, and not a great pressing, but since the album is not available on streaming services, or on youtube, I put together this mini-mix/sampler of all the tracks except “Theme From Cats (Memory).“
Even though I’ve subsequently acquired a rip of the CD Version, I’ve also ordered and better copy of the vinyl album. I hope the distortions and scratches on the sampler still allow you to get a feel for the album.
Tracks recorded from both the “Studio Trieste” and “Gershwin Carmichael Cats” sessions would make onto the 1992, Jim Hall, CTI Album “Youkali”.
Skylark, a Carmichael/Mercer track was a favorite of Hall, and Baker makes an appearance again on the Youkali versions, from beyond the grave, via overdubbing.
The story of the Taylor and the Baker deserves research, which I’ve not had time to do. A mix is also deserved, since Chet recordorded enough with CTI to warrant one. I’m actually looking forward to getting back to this for next year.
Hopefully these films will give insight into the troubled life, but beautiful music of Chet Baker.
Here are two remarkable films. First, Chet’s is interviewed and talks in Italian, it has subtitles, stick with it.
The second is a retrospective, made by Radio Netherlands Television, and featuring many of the Dutch and European musicians that he worked with. It also includes a strange, unemotional, matter of fact, female voice, dictating Chet’s final days and hours. The voice, is the antithesis of Baker’s trumpet. Pianist Russ Freeman gives perspective through the documentary.
Chet Baker [via wikipedia]
Chet Baker – She Was Too Good To Me [via discogs]
Chet Baker / Jim Hall / Hubert Laws – Studio Trieste [via discogs]
Gerry Mulligan / Chet Baker – Carnegie Hall Concert [via discogs]
Jim Hall – Concierto [via discogs]
Jim Hall – Youkali [via discogs]
Let’s Get Lost [via Amazon.com]