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Chet Baker

Chesney Henry "Chet" Baker Jr. was raised in a musical household in Oklahoma (his father was a guitar player), and coming of age in Southern California during the bebop era of jazz, Baker found success as a trumpet player in 1951 when he was chosen by Charlie Parker to play with him for a series of West Coast engagements.

In 1952, Baker joined the Gerry Mulligan Quartet, which was an instant phenomenon. Baker became famous on the strength of his solo on their recording of "My Funny Valentine" a piece he was later said to "own". The Quartet, however, lasted less than a year because of Mulligan's arrest on drug charges.

In 1954, Baker won the Downbeat Jazz Poll, beating Miles Davis among others. Over the next few years, Baker fronted his own combo, playing trumpet and singing. He became an icon of the west coast "cool school" of jazz, helped by his good looks and singing talent. By the early 1960s, Baker had begun playing the fluegelhorn, as well.

Then, drug addiction caught up with Baker, and his promising musical career declined as a result. Heroin addiction created a myriad of legal problems for him as well; he served more than a year in prison in Italy, and was later expelled from both West Germany and England for drug-related offenses. Baker was eventually deported from West Germany to the United States after running afoul of the law there a second time. He settled in Milpitas in northern California where he was active in San Jose and San Francisco between short jail terms served for writing his own prescriptions.

In 1966, Baker allegedly was severely beaten while attempting to buy drugs after a gig in San Francisco, sustaining severe cuts on the lips and broken front teeth, thus ruining his embouchure. Accounts of the incident vary, largely because of his lack of reliable testimony on the matter. From that time he had to learn to play with dentures, a difficult process for a brass player.

Between 1966 and 1974, Baker mostly played flugelhorn, with its wider mouthpiece, and recorded what must be considered slick mood music. He eventually moved to New York City and began recording again in earnest with other well known jazz musicians such as Jim Hall. Later in the seventies, Baker returned to Europe where he was assisted by his friend Diane Vavra who took care of his personal needs and otherwise helped him during his recording and performance dates.

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Maci Miller
vocals
Ken Slavin
vocals
Phil Abraham
trombone
Dmitri Matheny
flugelhorn
Dave Lee
trumpet
Jonny Boston
saxophone
Bill Stevens
trumpet
Matt Finley
flugelhorn
Michaela Rabitsch
trumpet and vocals
Martha J.
vocals
Martin Jones
trumpet
Tim Fox
piano
Attila Korb
trombone
Laura Karst
vocals
Jon Deshler
flugelhorn
Wendy Jones
vocals
Gijs Levelt
trumpet
Phil Wilkinson
organ, Hammond B3
FUAT TUAÇ
vocals
Lauren Bush
vocals
Sam Merrick
vocals
LILLY
vocals
Chip Parker
vocals
Lucia Fodde
vocals
Michael Neff
trumpet
Paul Ward
piano
John Kalleen
trumpet
Karina
vocals
Song Dynasty
band / ensemble / orchestra
Kai Brant
vocals
Alex Bird
vocals
Emile Turner
trumpet
Jens Bunge
harmonica
Darcy Cooke
vocals
Eva Fox
vocals
Andrew Ginzel
guitar, electric
Diana Torti
vocals
Stephen Enos
trumpet
Gerhard Daum
composer / conductor
Miriam
vocals
Darius Jones Shrek
trumpet and vocals
Clara Green
vocals

Photos

Music

Recordings: As Leader | As Sideperson

Blue Room: The 1979...

Jazz Detective/Deep Digs/Elemental Music
2023

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Live In Paris

Elemental Music
2022

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Quintet Session

Dot Time Records
2020

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Chet

Craft Recordings
2020

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Chet Baker In Paris

New Continent
2018

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