Its family settles in California in 1939. Chesney exchanges the Trombone then offered by his/her father against a Trompette (it idolâtre Harry James! , spectacular trumpet player with the style quite distant from that which will be it his).
It is initiated with the music with Glendale (school orchestra), then occurs soon with dance bands. It is impassioned especially for the saxophonist Lester Young and his follower.
In 1946, engaged in the 2980 Army Band stationed with Berlin, it discovers the Be bop (Dizzy Gillespie, Charlie Parker) and the white modern orchestras of the time (Woody Hermann, Brown, Stan Kenton).
Returned with the civil life in (1948), he studies the harmony and the musical theory, but engages again (1950 - Presidio Army Band in San Francisco), following a disappointment in love. First jam sessions with Dexter Gordon and Paul Desmond.
In 1951 it is transferred in a disciplinary battalion, it deserted and is made reform for inadaptability with the military life. In 1952, it plays with Vido Musso, Stan Getz and especially Charlie Parker which chooses it among a troop of young Californian trumpet players to accompany it in a round on the West coast by Los Angeles to Vancouver with the Canada. It engraves its first testimonys discographics under the responsibility of Harry Babasin.
This same year, begins collaboration with the saxophonist baritone Gerry Mulligan within a quartet without Piano ( pianoless four-bit byte ), unusual formation at the time. The group, which plays every Monday evenings with the club " The Haig " with Hollywood during several months, quickly becomes very popular, grace in particular to the marvellous musical agreement which binds Mulligan and Baker. At the beginning of 1953, the saxophonist Lee Konitz joint with the quartet on several occasions. Mulligan forms a tentette in which Chet takes part.
In June 1953, Mulligan is stopped for detention of narcotics. He is condemned to six months of prison. One month later, Chet Baker forms her clean Quartet (1953-54) with Russ Freeman with the piano. Summer 1953 at the summer 1955, Chet records abundantly and in various contexts, Quartet, sextet, septet, with whole with cords. It is surrounded by the sizes of the Jazz West Coast such Bud Shank, Zoot Sims, Jack Montrose, Shelly Manne. But a disc will know a true triumph through all the country, it is Chet Baker Sings (1954-1956). Chet becomes an American icon, at the same time rebellious and fragile. The splendid photographs of his/her friend William Claxton contribute to convey this idealized image of playboy. With its first seals, Chet buys its first cars. A passion which will accompany it all its life. In 1954, Chet Baker is elected trumpet player of the year by all the referendums of the magazines of jazz. What will attract some jealousies to him.
In September 1955, it leaves for the first time to Europe. It quickly signs a contract with the French label Barclay. It records as of October with its group of the made up splendid faces for the majority by Bob Zieff. A few days later, its Pianiste Dick Twardzik dies of overdose in its hotel room. Shown by the parents of the pianist, Chet shows the blow but however decides to continue the round and records with the head of various formations, especially French.
After seven months in Europe, Chet returns to the United States beginning 1956, and makes discover a new harder and riper style. To close a long round on the East coast, it returns to Los Angeles and serious of many discs in particular to the sides of the saxophonist Art Pepper. With the end of the year, it is stopped for the first time in possession of narcotics. During the year 1957, its dependence with heroin is done more intense. In 1958, it signs with the label Riverside and records a vocal album and the very beautiful Chet with Bill Evans and Philly Joe Jones.
Again in Europe of 1959 with 1964, it is arrested, imprisoned or expelled on several occasions in Germany and Italy. Its troubles with justice are largely covered by the tabloid press. It as meets in Europe of the friends, many musicians and a public more receptive as the American public. It is initiated then with the Bugle in Paris.
In 1965, it returns to the the United States and records a series of discs for the label Prestige. Its popularity is not any more that of the Années 1950 and has difficulties in find engagements like the majority of its fellow-members. In 1966, it is attacked by dealers in San Francisco (jaw fractured, many broken teeth). In impossibility of playing, he knows a long crossing of the desert but after several years of relearning, he goes up on scene in 1973.
Of 1975 to its death, Chet Baker plays and records abundantly in Europe and also with the United States. Among the musicians who accompanies it, one can quote the pianists Phil Markowitz, Enrico Pieranunzi, Michel Graillier; the guitarists Doug Rainey, Philip Catherine and the double bass players Jean-François Jenny-Clark, Niels-Henning Orsted Pedersen and Riccardo LED FRA.
Its many voyages are completed by a mysterious fall of the window of its hotel room, occurred after the catch of important quantities of Cocaïne and Héroïne, on Friday, May 13 1988 with Amsterdam, with the Netherlands.
From the start testifying delicacy, brittleness, its style evolves/moves in the second part of its career: its play often seems with the rupture limit, alternating light staccato passage and legato, in long sinuous sentences, sensual and vaporous, often in the serious register, underlined by effects of breath and the proximity of the house and the microphone. It especially controls with wonder the art of the ballade (cf many interpretations of its topic fetish: “My funny Valentine”).
Its improvisations remain especially in a regitre medium, it plays mainly the notes of its vocal tessiture, far from the flights suraigues of Dizzy Gillespie.
The bass player Riccardo LED FRA who played a long time with Chet explains well, in the book of Gerard Rouy devoted to Chet Baker, his particular design of the music:
" I felt at his place a depth which upset me, I also learned with him the self-control: i.e. to try to make essence. The perfection, one knows it, does not exist. But him, when he plays, he of it is very close. And when one plays with him, it is really necessary to serve the music and to be released from its ego. Let us say that its virtuosity is more magic than technical. "
With the wire of an existence worthy of a black novel, its work expresses, by antithesis, a delicate and modest lyricism.
With Gerry Mulligan
- 1953: Lee Konitz Plays With The Gerry Mulligan Four-bit byte (World Pacific)
- 1953: Gerry Mulligan Tentet (Capitol)
- 1957: Meeting
- 1952 - 1958: The Supplements Pacific Jazz Recordings off the Gerry Mulligan Quartet with Chet Baker
With Bud Shank
1966 : California Dreamin' (World Pacific)
- 1966: Brazil! Brazil! Brazil! (World Pacific)
- 1966: Michelle (World Pacific)
- 1968: Magical Mistery (World Pacific)
With Stan Getz
1953 : West Coast Live (Pacific Jazz)
- 1958: Stan Meets Chet (Liveliness)
- 1983: Line For Lyons - Live At Stockholm (Sonnet)
With Annie Ross
1958 : Annie Ross Sings has Song With Mulligan! (Pacific Jazz)
With Joe Not
1965 : In Sign Off The Times (World Pacific)
With Jim Hall
1975 : Concierto (CTI)
With Ron Casing
1980 : Patrao (Milestone)
With Rachel Gould
1979 : All Blues (Bingow)
Gerard Rouy, Chet Baker , Editions of the Silt
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