Looking for Chet Baker
Walker & Co
Jazz pianist Evan Horne is at it again. An ex-girlfriend says it best: "You and dead jazz musicians. Just can't resist, huh?" From the title it's obvious whose death Horne is investigating this time. In the past it's been cases involving tenor man Wardell Gray, Charlie Parker and Clifford Brown. Actually, Evan Horne is not a detective who happens to play jazz piano. He's an up-and-coming pianist with a very curious mind and talent for detective work.
Horne is still a bit traumatized from his last case, involving the serial killing of "smooth jazz" players. He wants no part of his professor pal's request for help with research for a book on Chet Baker. But finding himself on a dream gig in Amsterdam, Horne can't help taking a peek into the hotel room from which Baker plunged to his death in 1988. It all spirals from there.
The dream gig pairs Horne with ex-Basie tenor player Fletcher Paige, who's been living in Holland for eighteen years. Though he thinks Horne is crazy to pursue the Chet Baker case, he too is drawn in by a combination of friendship and curiosity.
Bill Moody, himself a drummer, does an excellent job of conveying the jazz-making process, especially the chemistry between Horne and Paige. While he's rather reverential of Baker's musicianship, he doesn't pull any punches about the trumpeter's self-destruction through drugs. Moody's commentary on the relative status of jazz in the States and abroad is deftly expressed through Fletcher Paige. A couple of Moody's references (to Victor Feldman and Dexter Gordon) seem off-base historically, but those are quibbles. In Looking for Chet Baker, Moody again provides excellent writing and a unique contribution to jazz culture. [With a foreward by Russ Freeman, pianist and former Chet Baker band-mate, and a brief discography].