Chet Baker – Let’s Get Lost

Posted: October 20, 2012 in Music

Chet Baker came to fame as part of Gerry Mulligan’s piano-less quartet. He was a combination of west coast cool, angel headed hipster, idiot savant and as it turned out a man possessed of a few demons.

Gerry Mulligan and Chet Baker

Gerry Mulligan and Chet Baker

Chet began his jazz career looking beautiful, aided by a series of iconic photographs taken by William Claxton. Later those looks would shrivel and hollow out as the junk he was addicted to took its toll. But though he could give bad or indifferent performances when he was too strung out on heroin, by and large he kept the faith right to the end. Even when he was beaten up and had his teeth knocked out (disaster for a trumpeter) he taught himself to play with dentures.

When it comes to the music there are literally hundreds to choose from. The best starting point are the Gerry Mulligan’s Original Quartet with Chet Baker. Not content with a beautiful trumpet sound Chet, to the bemusement of his fellow musicians, also wanted to sing. Initially he found it difficult to hold a note which gave the producers a few headaches. But he persisted and became a master of phrasing. The best early example of this is Chet Baker Sings. Also recommended is It could happen to you.

Chet’s lifestyle took him to Europe. Italy loved him and even placed him in a movie. Then it fell out of love with him when he got busted and imprisoned for drug possession. From then his lifestyle was chaotic. A succession of wives and lovers – all who carried scars from their abusive relationships with him. Artistic exile from America as the years went on, though their loss was Europe and Japan’s gain.

Over the years Chet produced a number of fine albums. He was never a chordal trumpeter but was instead in thrall to the melody. Other recommended albums are:

In Milan

Chet is Back

Jazz in Paris – Plays Standards

Baby Breeze

Broken Wing



The Last Great Concert

If you want to read about Chet:

Chet Baker: his life and music – J. de Valk

This concentrates on the music and has a great guide to his recorded work.

Deep in a Dream: The Long Night of Chet Baker – James Gavin

This is a more sensational account of Chet’s life, the drugs the wives etc. A good read but not so good if you want to find out what to listen to.

As Though I Had Wings – Chet Baker

A short unfinished memoir. Quite sweet.

Young Chet: The Young Chet Baker – William Claxton

Those iconic photos.

Recommended if you can play it is the DVD Let’s Get Lost (unfortunately only available as a region 2 DVD – which does not play in America unless you have a region free player). This was made shortly before Chet’s death – he fell out of the window of a Dutch hotel.

Chet Baker and lover Diane Vavra

Chet Baker and lover Diane Vavra


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