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Deep in a Dream: The Long Night of Chet Baker Paperback – March 1, 2004

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

The 1988 funeral of famed trumpet player and vocalist Chet Baker in L.A. was emblematic of the disorder and dysfunction of his life though he was world famous, only a small clique of loyal fans and family attended, and they were fighting with one another. Even his death in Amsterdam (possibly an overdose or drug-related murder) was an unsettled, sordid enigma. Gavin's elegantly written and thoroughly researched biography traces the astonishing highs and lows of Baker's personal and professional life. Born in 1929 in Oklahoma to a doting mother and alcoholic father, he spent 18 months in the army at age 17 before his prodigious talent blossomed when he went back to high school. Aggressively pursuing his career, he became famous for both his trumpet playing and his equally impressive hard drug habit, both of which increased over the next two decades. Gavin is superb at placing Baker in a clearly defined cultural context the "defiant new youth culture: Marlon Brando, Montgomery Clift, and James Dean, all of whom symbolized disgust with every false hope infecting America" and in explicating Baker's out-of-control actions. Gavin has an unerring eye for the salient detail as he charts the continual down-spiraling of the trumpeter's life. Drawing upon a wealth of personal interviews, music journal reviews, national media, jazz criticism and a sound sociological sense of the period, Gavin has produced a stark, troubling portrait of both the artist and his times.
Copyright 2002 Cahners Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Library Journal

There's a point at which the reporting of salacious or sadistic behavior overwhelms more important aspects of a person's life. Gavin (Intimate Nights: The Golden Age of New York Cabaret) comes perilously close to crossing that line in this biography of jazz trumpeter Baker, whose drug-addled life is well known to music fans. Often, Gavin examines the minutest details of Baker's heroin abuse at the expense of detailing his musical triumphs. While he provides valuable information on Baker's neglect and bad treatment of family and friends, as well as his European and Japanese tours, he fails to demonstrate an understanding of his subject's music, which demands respect. Art Pepper's Straight Life is still one of the best examples of jazz biography/autobiography; it not only conveys the toll that heroin took on Pepper (one of Baker's contemporaries) but also gives a good feel for the music. Readers looking for a less commercial (though slightly more fawning) biography are directed to Jeroen de Valk's Chet Baker. Recommended with reservations for academic and public libraries. [This month, Blue Note Records will release Deep in a Dream: The Ultimate Chet Baker Collection, produced by Gavin. Ed.] William G. Kenz, Minnesota State Univ., Moorhea.
- William G. Kenz, Minnesota State Univ., Moorhead
Copyright 2002 Cahners Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 448 pages
  • Publisher: Welcome Rain Publishers (March 1, 2004)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 156649284X
  • ISBN-13: 978-1566492843
  • Product Dimensions: 6.2 x 1.4 x 8.8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.4 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 3.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (63 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #3,328,183 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

124 of 137 people found the following review helpful By Melissa L. Roberson on June 20, 2002
Format: Hardcover
While this book will certainly make compelling reading for any Chet Baker fan, or any follower of the 1950s-60s jazz scene, be prepared for a frigid treatment of the subject. Mr. Gavin may have a knack for writing about jazz musicians, but he neither understands nor appreciates the music itself one whit. There was a definite gap in the Chet Baker bio market, and Gavin has filled it. Unfortunately, he has not only taken the same angle that the tabloids always did, covering the drugs-and-domestic-violence aspect of Chet Baker, but he has gone them one better--to suit his theme he paints Baker not as a hip musician, which he was, but as a bumbling Okie square, who could never keep up with the music's 'advances'. Baker's conservative opinions of free jazz and fusion, to name just one example, are held up to ridicule. He is dismissed as being 'incapable' of such 'catharsis', as if his opinion were formed out of jealousy or open-mouthed incomprehension. In fact, Miles Davis, who is repeatedly held up as an example of what a great musician is made of so Baker can pale in comparison, despised free jazz. For that matter, many very hip black jazz musicians hated free jazz, and fusion as well. Louis Armstrong thought bebop itself was a joke. All the usual jazz cliches are resurrected here: white jazz is intellectual and precise but lacks feeling, while black jazz is earthy, charged with life and dripping with soul, etc. Except for frequent put-downs of Baker's music for its alleged "lack of feeling" (what, if not feeling, is Baker's music known for?) Gavin barely mentions any of Baker's recorded legacy, aside from occasional session details which always involved Chet's forgetting the date because he was stoned, and his subsequent lack of blowing power when finally coaxed into the studio.Read more ›
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26 of 29 people found the following review helpful By R. H OAKLEY on March 30, 2003
Format: Hardcover
Deep in a Dream is a thoroughly researched and well written biography of Chet Baker. Baker was a one of the leading stars of West Coast jazz in the 50's and early 60's, and as he played trumpet, was at times held up as a white version of Miles Davis. This comparison was unfortunate; although gifted with a natural talent, Baker never matured into a major figure like Davis, and the one time they played on the same bill, Davis's group blew them away. Baker was also blessed with model-like looks (although by the time he died, he looked like a walking corpse), and often sang in an androgynous, subdued voice that many people found very moving. (Matt Damon imitates this in the Ripley movie, where he sings a Baker standard, My Funny Valentine, in the style of Baker.) Unfotunately, as this book documents thoroughly, Baker was a heroin addict for most of his adult life, and cared much more about getting drugs than anything else. Not surprisingly, this led to a downward spiral in his career. By the early 1960s he was getting bad reviews in the US, and relocated to Europe, leaving his family behind. He toured widely there, and became something of a cult figure.
Baker's life does not make for pleasant reading. He used people whenever he could, paid no attention to his children (other than to steal his son's trumpet on a rare visit home), and recorded primarily to get money to fund his drug habits. Since he always needed money right away, he usually signed away royalties in return for an advance. This left him perpetually broke. Eventually he died under mysterious circumstances (probably suicide) in Holland.
James Gavin has talked to just about everybody that had contact with Baker, as well as researching reviews of his performances and records.
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30 of 34 people found the following review helpful By Stuart Hoffman on May 25, 2002
Format: Hardcover
It's difficult to recreate the arrival of Chet Baker to the world of jazz. At that time, around 1950, the trumpet masters were Roy Eldridge, Dizzy Gillespe, Fats Navarro, and the Stan Kenton trumpet section, with Maynard Fergueson, and Buddy Childers. These "monsters" played above high C. F's, G's, and yes even DOUBLE high C's were their daily vocabulary. Along comes a kid from Oklahoma, whose family settles near LA, who never practices, has no high register(if he ever played a high C, I've never heard it) and decides to confront these guys, and the public with his idea of jazz, and jazz singing.He is an immediate sensation. His chamber music approach to jazz trumpet playing affects many people as does his singing. There are those who rate him a spinoff of Miles Davis, and that his singing isn't singing at all. I rate him a true master in both categories. The only fly in the ointment was his discovery and love of heroin. It superceded everything in his life---loved ones(some say he only loved heroin) children, musical associates etc. James Gavin does a masterful job recreating a life if possible, more tragic than Art Pepper's, or Charley Parker's. It's not for the faint of heart. If you worship every note and vocal of this master as I do, it's a must.
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15 of 16 people found the following review helpful By Kevin Currie-Knight TOP 1000 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on August 21, 2004
Format: Hardcover
They say that the key element in engrossing drama is a main character with a tragic flaw. Chet Baker, it seems, had that - his inability (or lack of motivation) to care about anything (including consequences). At least, that seems to be Mr. Gavin's take in this gripping and unfinching tale of jazz trumpeter turned ravenous junkie, Chet Baker. From his early days that saw an overly doting mother to the many loves in Baker's life that played more the role of a mom than a lover, Chet Baker is portrayed (probably correctly) as a wrecklessly detached, yet childlike, soul all too content to drift through life letting others clean up increasingly heinous messes.

As other reviewers have noted, this book is not a pretty read. For me, I recall many evenings where I couldn't pry myself away from these pages, yet hardly "wanted" to continue reading. (The former emotion always won out!) We see a junkie, an egocentrist, a master trumpeter, an inveterate manipulator, and - somehow - even a childlike innocent who we never cease, in some way, to feel at least some compassion for (and in some sense, that was part of Baker's ease of manipulation). And Mr. Gavin's well-written biography gives us a front row seat to it all!

Now, I've never been one to assume that in order to 'understand' a musician, one does best to know their history. But it is hard for me to imagine that I will ever be able to listen to one of Baker's glossy ballads in exactly the same way again, now knowing about the torturous life that his notes belie. And if you are a Baker fan (I have to imagine that if you are here, you are) no doubt the book will do the same to you.

To close, I must reiterate that this is a wildly engrossing book that reads as much like fiction as a biography can.
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