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Chet Baker sheet music Jazz transcriptions

Chet Baker (sheet music Jazz transcriptions)

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Chet Baker, the heartthrob who revolutionized jazz but ended up deformed, toothless and with an absurd death

In the early morning of May 13, 1988, the famous trumpeter crashed in free fall onto the asphalt from the second floor of a hotel in Amsterdam. Traces of heroin and cocaine were found on his body, but it was never possible to establish with certainty if he had fallen by accident or if he was pushed into the void.

free sheet music & scores pdf chet baker

When Julio Cortázar wrote his story The Pursuer, there is no doubt that he wrote it because of the life and death of Charlie Parker. To eliminate any misunderstanding, the story is dedicated to the memory of “ Ch. P. ” and its protagonist is a brilliant black saxophonist, consumed by drugs.

The Pursuer was published in 1959, four years after Parker – Johnny Carter, in the story – died of pneumonia associated with an intestinal perforation that left no outlet for a body that could no longer cope with addiction.

If the story had been written three decades later – something impossible, because by then Cortázar had already died -, changing the black saxophonist for a white trumpeter and dedicated to the memory of “ Ch. B. , any jazz-loving reader would not doubt in identifying the protagonist as Chet Baker.

The Pursuer is the story of the desperate search – the chase – of a time and music inaccessible to the rest of mortals, but above all it is the chronicle of a fatal fall, which in real life was slow and progressive in the case of Parker and also in that of Baker, although in the case of the white trumpeter it had an abrupt end that can be measured in the distance between the second floor balcony of a seedy hotel in Amsterdam and the asphalt against which his body hit on the night of May 13, 1988.

Chet Baker had been falling for years until he finally crashed . He had had almost everything – full house recitals, award-winning albums, starring roles in movies – but he had almost nothing left.

Musician’s destiny

Chesney Henry “Chet” Baker Jr. was born in Yale, Oklahoma, on December 23, 1929 into a family of musicians. His father, Chesney Baker, was a professional guitarist, and his mother, Vera Moser, was a pianist.

free sheet music & scores pdf chet baker

His parents wanted him to be a musician like them. He was not six years old when they took him to join the church choir and later, for his birthday, they gave him a trombone, although that first instrument turned out to be a fiasco.

The boy Chet didn’t like it because the trombone was too big and he asked to have it changed for a trumpet , the instrument that accompanied him all his life. Not only his parents saw a future for him there but also his teachers at Glendale Junior High School, where he became a kind of musical rare bird.

At the age of 16 he enlisted in the Army and was assigned to devastated post-war Berlin. It was 1946 and he spent two years there, until he requested a leave to enroll at Camino College to study harmony and music theory.

At that time music and military life pulled him with equal force and to get out of that tension he found a compromise solution: he enlisted again, but as a trumpet player in the Sixth Band of the United States Army , where he played until 1951.

jazz and drugs

As a trumpeter he was already really good. As soon as he left the Army he began playing in clubs and associating with many of the best jazz musicians of the early ’50s. He played with Vido Musso and Stan Getz, and also toured with Charlie Parker along the west coast of the country.

In 1952, he joined a quartet led by saxophonist Gerry Mulligan, which also included bassist Bobo Whitlock and drummer Chico Hamilton. They recorded an LP, where Baker’s trumpet stands out in the version of The Funny Valentina , and they played practically every night at the Haig jazz club in Hollywood, where young Chet had his first experience with drugs , led by Mulligan. .

The quartet seemed to have a great future ahead of them, but Mulligan’s arrest for drug use disbanded them. A few days later, Chet also ended up behind bars for the same reason. He was luckier than the leader of the quartet, because he spent only one night at the police station.

“It happened one night during a break, I was sitting in my car, in the parking lot, getting high with two other musicians. A patrol car arrived and, upon seeing us, stopped. The other two had already been detained before, so the three of us decided that we would say that the drugs were mine , since for a first crime people were usually released on probation. I left the next morning on bail, but they kept my car,” he said in his memoirs.

In some ways, the dissolution of Mulligan’s quartet marked a leap in Baker’s career. He formed his own quartet, with Russ Freeman on piano, Rd Mitchell on bass and Bobboy Whote on drums, and recorded two albums as a leader, where in addition to playing trumpet, he began singing, something he would continue to do for the rest of his career. .

In 1955 he made his film debut, with Hell’s Horizon , filmed in just ten days, and then he undertook his first international tour, between September of that year and April 1956, where he played in several European countries.

Moving to Italy in late 1959, Baker worked with music composer Ezio Leoni along with the latter’s orchestra and were known as the Milano Sessions.

Addiction and teeth

Drugs became a real problem for Baker with the arrival of the ’60s. The addiction began to take over and he was arrested in Italy, France and England for possession and consumption.

He returned to the United States and settled in California, where one night he lost three teeth while trying to buy drugs . He went out at night and entered a trafficking area. It was never clear what the interdict was, but he ended up beaten to death by a group of thugs. The worst of all were the blows to his face, which knocked out three teeth. He spent months without being able to get a decent sound out of the trumpet.

But he wanted to continue playing and he himself developed a new way of playing with the help of his dentures. He moved to New York, but already felt that the United States was not a good place for him.

He decided to go live in Europe and return to his country only once a year to tour. They were her most productive years but, paradoxically, while her work earned praise from critics, it did not reach a wide audience.

The drugs continued to take their toll on him. He combined periods in which he could briefly control his addiction to heroin and cocaine with others in which he was almost shut out of the world.

The ’80s were already underway and he had brilliant moments, such as the recording of Silent Nights in New Orleans, in 1986, or the Chet Baker album in Tokyo , during a tour of Japan in 1987. But he spent most of his time touring Europe and playing. in seedy places, sometimes in exchange for enough to buy more drugs .

This is how he arrived in Amsterdam in 1988, where getting any type of drug was one of the easiest things in the world.

Death also found him there, the causes of which were clear from the beginning – he crashed onto the asphalt after a free fall from a second floor – but whose circumstances gave rise to many theories.

The four deaths of Chet Baker

The news, as published in newspapers in Europe and the United States the next day, could be summarized as follows: “In the early hours of Friday, May 13, 1988, the legendary Chesney Henry Baker, better known as Chet Baker, aged 58 years, was found dead on a street in the Dutch capital. He died after falling from the second floor window of the Hoter Prins Hendrik, in Amsterdam.

“Baker fell shortly after 3:10 AM and was found dead in the street by police, according to an Amsterdam police spokesman, who gave no information about the cause of the fall,” said The New York Times .

Outside of those certainties, Chet Baker’s death was shrouded in a cloud of suspicion .

The first version that was known was that of an accidental fall. High on drugs, Baker locked himself in the hotel room, went out onto the balcony, lost his balance and fell into the void.

news agency The Associated Press quoted Dutch police spokesman Klaas Wilting as saying: ″Apparently, he had just taken heroin. “Traces of heroin abuse were found in Baker’s hotel room.”

″Maybe he started acting strange. She was alone and pushed the window open and fell or jumped. I don’t think we’ll ever know which one ,″ the police officer told the news agency.

Another version was collected by the journalist Tom Schnabel from the mouth of the singer of Jimmy Scott, singer of The Water Court, who had been in the hotel hall with Baker until shortly before his death. He said Chet was chatting with a woman in the lobby, went upstairs to get cigarettes or keys, and hotel room discovered she had locked herself out of his . The door to the next room was open. He entered, went out to the balcony and tried to reach his own balcony. He lost his balance, fell and died,” he explained.

Another version maintains that Baker did indeed fall while trying to reach his room through the balcony, jumping from the neighboring room, but for other reasons: the hotel concierge had prevented him from entering his room for lack of payment and that he decided to climb the stairs. two floors to recover, at least, his trumpet .

The last possibility is that of murder and was picked up by the Spanish journalist César Pradines: “Baker’s death would have been a consequence of a settling of accounts for the debt he owed to several traffickers who, tired of excuses, threw him out the window.” , said.

The posthumous documentary

At the end of The Persecutor , Julio Cortázar makes the narrator, a mediocre jazz critic, say that he has just learned of Parker-Carter’s death: “All this coincided with the appearance of the second edition of my book, but luckily I had time to include an obituary note written at full speed, and a photograph of the funeral where many famous jazzmen were seen. In this way, the biography was, so to speak, complete. Maybe it’s not right for me to say this, but naturally I place myself on a purely aesthetic level. They are already talking about a new translation, I think into Swedish or Norwegian. “My wife is delighted with the news.”

What about Cortázar and his critic is pure fiction. Instead, the final months of Chet Baker’s life gave rise to a documentary directed by Bruce Weber, which followed him with a crew on his final journey.

His description of the film’s production is a painting of what the last days of Baker’s life were like: “It was his low hours, his worst moment, and in some way I think we helped him. For us it was a vital experience. It was a crazy shoot, it couldn’t be any other way with Chet. He had no home and we followed him. Living next to him was not easy, it always brought problems ; However, there was something about him that saved him from the worst situations. At airports, for example, we always had problems with the police because of drugs. The dogs discovered Chet’s suitcase, although those same dogs later fell in love with him. He even adopted some, it was incredible,” he says.

The two-hour documentary, titled Let’s get lost , was nominated for an Oscar for best documentary in 1988 and won the Cinecritica award at the Venice Film Festival.

In the Hotel Prins Hendrik, in Amsterdam, you can still see a plaque in memory of the jazz genius who walked there the last meters of his fall in life.