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Chet Baker Poster

Biography

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Overview (3)

Born in Yale, Oklahoma, USA
Died in Amsterdam, Noord-Holland, Netherlands  (fall from window)
Birth NameChesney Henry Baker Jr.

Mini Bio (3)

Chet Baker started his career in the late forties. He became famous with the Gerry Mulligan Quartet in 1952. His solo in "My funny valentine" is a classic of the west coast jazz in the fifties. When Mulligan was arrested in 1953, Chet led the group until 1955, when he went to Europe. He also sang on many records. In Europe he recorded with many musicians in different countries. His career was interrupted many times for personal problems with drugs and he was arrested many times for his addiction. In 1974 he come back to music after three years in obscurity, playing in a concert in Carnegie Hall with his old friend, Gerry Mulligan. After this he started a "new career", but his problems with drugs were continuous. His death today is a mystery, one possibility is suicide but another says he was killed by trafficants in Amsterdam, Holland.

- IMDb Mini Biography By: Eric Nesich (christyjazz45)

Born Chesney Henry Baker Jr. on 23 December 1929, in Yale, Oklahoma, Chet Baker was the son of Vera Baker and Chesney H. Baker Sr. The family moved to California in about 1939. A couple of years later, around the time that the US entered World War II, young Chet began playing the horn. Initially his father had given him a trombone, but it was too big for the boy so it was replaced with a trumpet. He listened to trumpet players on the radio, learning by ear to play like them, but he also played with his high school band. His music teacher is said to have told Baker he would never make it professionally.

Baker joined the US army in 1946 and was sent to Berlin, Germany, where he performed in a military band. While in the army he listened to jazz on the Armed Forces Radio Network and later said that his playing was transformed at that time by listening to trumpeter Dizzy Gillespie. When Baker returned to civilian life he briefly attended El Camino College in California. He married Charlaine in 1950, but the marriage ended without producing any children. In 1952 he auditioned for jazz legend Charlie Parker in Los Angeles and played in his band for a while. Later that same year he joined the Gerry Mulligan Quartet and quickly became a star. Soon he was leading his own group. He recorded a great deal during the 1950s--often singing in a seductive voice that complemented his good looks--as well as blowing the trumpet. He appeared in a low-budget war movie entitled Hell's Horizon (1955) in 1955. Many believe that, if not for his drug habit and its concomitant legal problems, he might have become a movie star. As it was, he only appeared in a few films, including a couple in Italy.

In 1956 he married Halema, a beautiful Pakistani woman who appears in some of the famous photographs of Baker taken by William Claxton. They had a son, Chesney Aftab Baker, in 1957 ("Aftab" is more or less equivalent to "Junior" in Halema's homeland). In 1959 Baker went off to play a gig and left Halema and Chesney Aftab with American sculptor Peter Broome in Paris. The marriage may have continued for a while afterward, but Broome seems to have taken over parenting Chesney Aftab, who goes by the surname "Broome".

Baker met an English actress, Carol Baker, in Italy around 1961. Married in 1964 and (although separated during the 1970s) never divorced, they had two sons and a daughter, Dean Baker, Paul Baker and Melissa (aka Missy Baker). In later years Baker was involved with a number of women, the longest-lasting probably being Diane Vavra and singer Ruth Young.

Baker's personal life often overshadowed his professional one. He was extremely talented but self-involved, needy and manipulative. His drug addiction ruined his reputation in the US but earned him a degree of sympathy among many Europeans. This sympathy was not shared, however, by law-enforcement authorities in Europe, and he was banned from several countries during the 1960s, only being allowed to return in the late 1970s.

The greatest crisis, among so many, in his life was a physical assault by hoodlums in the late 1960s that destroyed his teeth. After years of struggling to learn to blow the horn with dentures, Baker was finally able to play on the same bill with his old colleague, Gerry Mulligan, in 1974.

There are differences of opinion about the ups and downs in the quality of his work, but everyone agrees that the 1950s--especially the early part of the decade--were his heyday. The general assessment is that little of what he recorded as the 1960s progressed was particularly good; however, while some think that he never recovered, many aficionados maintain that he actually improved during his last 14 years of life when he came back after the loss of his teeth. He made a recording in Germany two weeks before he died.

On 13 May 1988, at approximately 3 a.m., Baker fell out of a hotel room window in Amsterdam, The Netherlands. His death appears to have been accidental. Heroin was found in his bloodstream, and both heroin and cocaine were found in his room, which was locked from the inside. His body was sent back to California and buried next to his father. He was survived by his mother Vera, wife Carol and four children.

- IMDb Mini Biography By: Miles N. Fowler (qv's & corrections by A. Nonymous)

He was born and raised in a musical household December 23, 1929 Yale, Oklahoma, U.S. He started his musical career singing in church. His career in brass instruments started with trombone which soon turned to trumpet as it proved too large. He received musical education at Glendale Junior High Scool but in 1946 he joined the army playing in the 298th Army Band at Berlin. After army he studied theory and harmony at El Camino College in L.A. His second year there he dropped out and joined the army again. He became a member of the Sixth Army Band but he was soon spending time in Jazz Clubs such as Bop City and Black Hawk. He dropped out of the army again to start a professional musical career.

- IMDb Mini Biography By: J.B.

Spouse (3)

Carol Baker (25 November 1965 - 13 May 1988) (his death) (3 children)
Halema Alli (May 1956 - ?) (1 child)
Charlene Souder (1950 - ?)

Trivia (5)

Jazz trumpeter
Inducted into the Big Band and Jazz Hall of Fame in 1987.
His father, Chesney Baker, Sr., played guitar in country & western bands.
Though it was said that he couldn't read music, he was actually semi-literate; he had a rudimentary ability to read music, but because he was so good at playing by ear, he never used or improved his music-reading ability.
Biography in: "The Scribner Encyclopedia of American Lives". Volume Two, 1986-1990, pages 53-55. New York: Charles Scribner's Sons, 1999.

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