Flugelhorn and trumpet player and jazz singer, Chet Baker, both angel and demon, was an artist with a delicate and melancholic style who left his mark on the history of jazz music. Through his life worthy of a dark novel, he expressed with his work the contradiction of a delicate and reserved lyricism.
Chesney Henri Baker, of his real name, was the son of a guitarist and was born in Yale, Oklahoma, on the 23rd of December 1929. Very early, Chet Baker started to play music with a school orchestra - he was only ten years old - and discovered Be-Bop in 1946. He had his first jam sessions with Dexter Gordon and Paul Desmond.
In 1952, he played alongside the saxophonists Vido Musso, Stan Getz and espcially Charlie Parker and started his collaboration with baritone saxophonist Gerry Mulligan. He spent six months in prison in 1953 for possession of narcotics and formed his first quartet when he got out with big names of the Jazz West Coast and pianist Russ Freeman.
When his album Chet Baker Sings was realeased (1954-1956), the musician became an American idol, both rebel and fragile, of the American West Coast Cool Jazz before a professional decline in the 1960's.
In 1955, he left for Europe and signed with the label Barclay and introduced his style: biting, clear and powerful.
When he went back to the US at the beginning of 1956, he recorded many songs with saxophonist Art Pepper and again with Gerry Mulligan. His trouble with justice were widely covered by the tabloid press. Fortunately he had met in Europe friends, many musicians (including Jean-Louis Chautemps, Francy Boland, Charles Saudrais, René Urteger or Raymond Fol) and an audience more receptive than the American public.
In 1965, he performed besides Stan Getz at the Newport Festival. After a dry period following an incapacity of playing, he eventually went back on stage in 1973 with the support of Dizzy Gillespie.
From 1975 until his death, he played and recorded a lot in Europe and in the US with many musicians, like the pianists Phil Markowitz, Enrico Pieranunzi, Michel Graillier, Alain Jean-Marie, the guitarists Doug Raney and Philip Catherine, and the double bass players Jean-François Jenny-Clark, Riccardo del Fra or Charlie Haden…
Six landmark dates in the life of Chet Baker
1952: My Funny Valentine (avec Gerry Mulligan)
1954: elected trumpet player of the year by the American music magazines
1955: signed with label Barclay
1958: signed with label Riverside
1959: release of the album Chet
1988: accidental death on the 13th of May and release of the movie Let's Get Lost