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Chesney Henry “Chet” Baker, Jr. (December 23, 1929 – May 13, 1988) was an American jazz trumpeterflugelhornistand vocalist.

Every Time We Say Goodbye

Baker earned much attention and critical praise through the 1950s, particularly for albums featuring his vocals (Chet Baker SingsIt Could Happen to You). Jazz historian David Gelly described the promise of Baker’s early career as “James DeanSinatra, and Bix, rolled into one.”

 His “well-publicized drug habit” also drove his notoriety and fame; Baker was in and out of jail frequently before enjoying a career resurgence in the late 1970s and ’80s.

Comeback and later career

Baker in Belgium, 1983

After developing a new embouchure resulting from dentures, Baker returned to the straight-ahead jazz that began his career. He relocated to New York City and began performing and recording again, including with guitarist Jim Hall. Later in the 1970s, 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.

From 1978 until his death in 1988, Baker resided and played almost exclusively in Europe, returning to the US roughly once per year for a few performances. This was Baker’s most prolific era as a recording artist. However, as his extensive output is strewn across numerous, mostly small European labels, none of these recordings ever reached a wider audience, even though many of them were well received by critics, who maintain that the period was one of Baker’s most mature and rewarding. Of particular importance are Baker’s quartet featuring the pianist Phil Markowitz (1978–80) and his trio with guitarist Philip Catherine and bassist Jean-Louis Rassinfosse (1983–85). He also toured with saxophonist Stan Getz during this period.

In 1983, British singer Elvis Costello, a longtime fan of Baker, hired the trumpeter to play a solo on his song “Shipbuilding“, from the album Punch the Clock. The song exposed Baker’s music to a new audience. Later, Baker often featured Costello’s song “Almost Blue” (inspired by Baker’s version of “The Thrill Is Gone“) in his concert sets, and recorded the song on Let’s Get Lost, a documentary film about his life.

The video material recorded by Japanese television during Baker’s 1987 tour in Japan showed a man whose face looked much older than he was, but his trumpet playing was alert, lively and inspired. Fans and critics alike agree that the live album Chet Baker in Tokyo, recorded less than a year before his death and released posthumously, ranks among Baker’s very best. Silent Night, a recording of Christmas music, was recorded with Christopher Mason in New Orleans in 1986 and released in 1987.

Almost blue

Source  :

 Nell’agosto del 1960, Chet Baker, in fuga dagli Stati Uniti per problemi di droga, viene fermato nel bagno di un distributore di benzina sulla provinciale che da Lucca porta all’autostrada per Viareggio. La occupa da un’ora e mezza quando il benzinaio decide di chiamare la polizia, che abbatte la porta a spallate. Trovano una scia di sangue, una siringa, fiale di Palfium e un americano che dice di essere, da verbale, «Baker Chesney Henry». Seguono le indagini, il processo, la condanna, l’appello che arriva a fine ’61, quando il grande musicista ha già scontato 16 mesi di carcere. Negli ultimi mesi gli viene concesso di esercitarsi in cella, per cinque minuti, due volte al giorno, e il suono della sua tromba si diffonde per la città come il pianto struggente di un uccello in gabbia.
Come finì la storia, lo sappiamo. Per quanto la detenzione italiana l’avesse di fatto costretto a uscire dalla dipendenza, Baker non tornò più ai fasti degli Anni 50, quelli che l’hanno consegnato alla storia del jazz. Suonò ancora molto, e molto in Italia, e morì nel 1988 ad  Amsterdam, cadendo dalla finestra della stanza dell’hotel in cui alloggiava. Tutti pensarono che avesse voluto suicidarsi, ma non la gente di Lucca, che lo ricorda ancora, con la sua tromba, seduto sul davanzale della stanza numero 15 dell’Hotel Universo, in piazza del Giglio.

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