Chet Baker: His Life and Music Paperback – August 1, 2000
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From Library Journal
Copyright 2000 Reed Business Information, Inc.
"Though it has an endearingly unfinished feel to it, like some of Baker's music, it's going to be definitive." -- Brian Priestley, Jazzwise, December 2000/January 2001
Jeroen de Valk's book, CHET BAKER: HIS LIFE AND MUSIC, is a classic of modern Jazz biography. -- Larry Nai, Cadence 27.1
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This bio falls in the earlier catagory and rightfully so. Chet Baker played with such greats as Gerry Mulligan, Charlie Parker, Stan Getz, Paul Desmond and more. You don't get to sit in with geniuses if you can't play, and Chet Baker could play. What both biographies do agree upon is that Chet Baker was incredibly handsome, had innate talent for the horn, and had loads of opportunities to elevate himself both morally and historically but failed to do so out of selfishness towards his drug habit which ultimately played a part in his death.
As to the book addressing his herion habit: Though the book chronicles it very throughly, it focuses more on his music accomplishmnets and personality rather than his addiction. (Chet's happiest moment in life was buying a Jaguar and racing it around all day long. It's my belief that Chet had a textbook case of Attetion Deficit Disorder and was proably self medicating himself so he could focus.)
The book has wonderful time-lines in it for both his life and his albums. There are loads of interviews with those on the sidleines who witnessed both his greatness and not-so-greatness. The grammar could be criticized once in a while but it is a good read.
Thus, this book is not only a god bio, but a great reference as to Chet Baker's accomplishments and history he helped create
one of the most unique jazz artists of the last half of the 20th
century. De Valk captures Chet as a man and as a musician. While
de Valk makes no secret of Chet's long struggle with drugs,
mostly heroin, this book is about Chet's music and his life in
music. I read this book after suffering through James Gavin's
long, bloodless, and totally insensitive hatchet job. De Valk's
bio was a breath of fresh air.
de Valk was interested in Baker as subject while he was still
alive -- while it took some effort, he managed to interview Chet
in the last year of his life. The Q&A, printed as a transcript,
make it clear that de Valk knew Chet's music. His questions, and
Chet's responses, were thoughtful and coherent. He interviewed
many musicians who knew ando/or worked with Chet, and asked them
musical questions. Many of those musicans praised Chet's music,
and talked about how much they had learned from Chet.
This book includes a very good (and selective) discography of
Chet's music. Much of that music has been in my collection, and
more than a bit of it in my brain, for nearly 50 years. I agree
with de Valk's assessments of the recordings I've heard.
If you care about how Chet died, you'll appreciate that de Valk
interviewed the detective who investigated it, and with the detective toured the
hotel room, and the street out front. I find that analysis quite
But what I really care about, is how Chet lived, and the music
he gave us. That's what this book is about. Highly recommended.