Saturday, May 21, 2011
My great-nephew posted Chet Baker's "I Fall In Love Too Easily" on his Facebook page. I was surprised that a person as young as he appreciates Chet Baker but I don't know why I was surprised--he wants ALBUMS by Leonard Cohen and Julie London--but he wrote that he was surprised I was on Facebook! [It's good the different generations can still surprise each other.]
A comment accompanying the YouTube video stated: "An intellectual says a simple thing in a hard way; an artist a hard thing in a simple way."
Chet was definitely an artist who was destroyed by his own demons and addiction to cocaine and heroin. I became a fan of Chet Baker as a teenager because a friend of mine was obsessed with Jazz and we listened to the Gerry Mulligan Quartet and Chet Baker played with him. As talented as he was playing the trumpet and flugelhorn, I believe his singing is even superior. He was the epitome of COOL West Coast Jazz! The Mulligan Quartet's version of "My Funny Valentine" was a huge hit and is still highly regarded.
I have read Baker's unfinished autobiography "As Though I Had Wings: The Lost Memoir"; "Chet Baker--His Life And Times"; "Deep In A Dream--The Long Night Of Chet Baker"; and a beautiful photography book "Young Chet", all of which detail his phenomenal talent and descent into drugs. In a drug-related beating in 1966, he lost his teeth which ruined his embouchure, but after being fitted with dentures, he was able to develop a new one and toured until his death in 1988.
When I play Chet's music, I think of Millay's poem:
"My candle burns at both ends,
It will not last the night;
But, oh, my foes, and oh, my friends,
It gives a lovely light!"