Chet Baker – His life and music

Steve A. Cerra /, July 2017:
Having now had the opportunity to read the revised and expanded edition of Jeoren de Valk’s Chet Baker: His Life and Music, the editorial staff at JazzProfiles formed the following impressions about the work.

[1] It is a painstakingly accurate book that goes to great lengths to separate fact from fiction in Chet’s life and in so doing, dispels many of the romanticized myths associated with what has become a Baker hagiography;

[2] It is chronologically detailed such that it offers the reader a full overview of each of the major periods in Chet’s career beginning with the famous piano-less quartet he formed with Gerry Mulligan, continuing on with the quartet he formed with pianist Russ Freeman, to his own groups on the West Coast and earlier tours of Europe, and then to the remaining 25 years of his career spent mainly in Europe with occasional sojourns to the states;

[3] The work is full of primary source interviews largely centered around the musicians, record executives, club owners, concert impresarios and Jazz fans who were close to Chet and many of these are cross-referenced to give the clearest possible picture of Chet and his music;

[4] The book is full of fair and honest assessments of the quality of the music on Chet’s many recordings in an effort to help the listener focus of the better ones;

[5] De Valk maintains that “Chet was first of all an endless improviser; someone who could invent endless streams of melody. He delivered these melodies with a highly individual, mellow sound. He turned his heart inside out, almost to the point of embarrassing his listeners:” there are numerous musician interviews whose aim it is to attempt to explain why Chet’s approach to improvisation was so unique and special – in other words – what they fuss was all about in Chet’s playing;

[6] Every facet of Chet’s approach to music is touched on in de Valk’s Chet bio from his choice of trumpets, to his technique in employing the valves of the instrument, his use of microphones, et. al. all of which is combined to provide the reader with rarely understood insights into the mechanical process of making Jazz;

[7] De Valk makes every effort at an honest appraisal of Chet’s personal life and how it affected his music and this objectivity serves to prevent the extremes of hero-worship or warts-an-all-tell all that plagues many biographies of Jazz musicians noted for their drug addictions;

[8] De Valk introduces some little discussed factors that influenced Chet to spend his later career in Europe such as the reverse discrimination, Black Nationalism, and complete dismissal of Baker’s “Cool School” style of Jazz as superficial by major American Jazz critics, all of which were very prevalent in the America of the 1970s when Chet was considering returning to the US;

[9] The frank and candid discography contains every major recording that Baker appeared on and helps guide the Jazz fan to Chet’s better recorded efforts;

[10] The book does not contain a bibliography, but it closes with fully annotated footnotes for each chapter.

This book should serve as a model for how to write a biography about a Jazz musician because it is descriptively strong in its analysis of the music while, at the same time, providing accurate and abundant information about the musician’s life, both personal and professional.

If a Jazz fan is looking for a guide to the evolution of Chet Baker’s music as manifested through the major phases of his career, this is the book to get. Jazz musicians are their music and Jeroen de Valk’s comprehensive biography proves to be another example of why this is so.

ISBN: 9789463381987
318 pagina’s
Verschijningsdatum: Juni 2017
Prijs: €16.95