Personalities | Chet Baker | Fifties | Jazz & Blues
Chet Baker was an icon of cool at the height of his fame in the 1950s. His recording of ‘My Funny Valentine’ with Gerry Mulligan in 1952 established him as a star of the emerging cool jazz genre; his boyish, film-star looks (later ravaged by drug abuse) and a light, seductively lyrical trumpet style assured his popularity for much of the decade. Baker was born in Yale, Oklahoma but moved to Los Angeles at a young age. He led his own quartet on the West Coast from 1953.
Drugs, imprisonment in both the US and Europe, and poor health took a heavy toll from the late 1950s; he also lost some teeth in an assault in 1968, which kept him off the stage until 1973. He worked mainly in Europe from 1975, where he was in demand as a soloist in both small group and orchestral settings, and remained an artful improviser throughout the many vicissitudes of his career. He died after falling from a hotel window in Amsterdam.
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