As Though I Had Wings: The Lost Memoir
Without fanfare, Chet also makes a powerful statement about the futility and inhumanity of law enforcement efforts to control the small-time addict, among whom was Baker as well as so many fine jazz musicians. Much of Baker's life was spent coping with the law and spending months in drab prisons. In this, he was far from alone among the jazz artists of his generation. (Coinicidentally, there were at one point so many top jazz instrumentalists in San Quentin, that then-Governor Jerry Brown staged a chic concert there, with the prisoners/performers in tuxedos!) What a cruel waste of a precious national and international resource.
I doubt if the Baker afficionado will find anything new or revealing in this book. We eagerly await James Gavin's upcoming biography of Chet to fill in the details and perhaps give us some new insights. Nor will As Though I Had Wings become a literary classic. However, I do recommend it as interesting reading for jazz fans while hanging out at a capuccino joint, or late at night while listening to some of Chet's recordings. Enjoy the blues!
Vic Schermer is a psychologist and jazz aficianado in Philadelphia, PA. He is a regular contributor to All About Jazz and other jazz venues on the Worldwide Web. Vic welcomes thoughts from readers and will respond. Contact Vic.