Apr 25, 2014
When so many think of the late, great Chet Baker, they think of a life cut short by abuse of drugs and violent encounters. Even in the documentary film Let’s Get Lost, there seems little to like about the great trumpet player and singer. We’re often left wondering how anyone tolerated his seemed excesses and lack of control and trust. Artt Frank, a drummer who played with and knew Baker well has written a poignant memoir of the west coast jazz scene of the late 1960s. Known for his friendship and musical collaboration with Baker, Frank provides jazz lovers with an intimate portrait of what are considered “the missing years” in Baker’s career – the period shortly after a brutal beating left the trumpeter unable to play, and ending with his well-received return to the concert stage.
Frank is an unabashed Baker admirer, and makes it clear in our interview that he still listens to Baker’s music every day. He brings that enthusiasm to Chet Baker: The Missing Years, A Memoir and is not afraid to paint a more positive – indeed loving – portrait of a troubled but ultimately talented musician. He makes it clear Baker was no saint – rather, we see him as a troubled angel who thanks to the help and persistence of a friend got himself a second (or was it third? Fourth?) chance at playing music professionally.
Podcast 423 is my conversation with Artt, and features Baker musical selections that include:
Chet Baker - "Vehicle" from Blood, Chet and Tears. Chet on the comeback trail playing jazz-rock tunes from the lkes of Santana, The Beatles, The Archies (!) and this Ides of March burner. The album was much maligned when it came out, but has improved with age.
Gerry Mulligan & Chet Baker - "Margarine" from The Carnegie Hall Concert. Creed Taylor from CTI brought electric players together with the two old friends for a memorable evening. The band is Mulligan on baritone, Baker on trumpet, Ed Byrne on trombone, Ron Carter on bass, Dave Samuels on vibes, Bob James on keyboards, John Scofield on guitar and Harvey Mason on drums.
Chet Baker - "I Can't Get Started" from Chet Baker Sings Again. A small group setting in 1986 showcases Baker's voice and trumpet, matching him with Michael Graillier on piano, Ricardo Del Fra on bass and John Engels on drums.
Chet Baker Quartet - "Old Friends" from Burnin' at Backstreet. A 1974 club date with Frank joining his friend on drums, backed by Mike Formanek on bass and Drew Salperto on piano.
Chet Baker - "I Waited For You" from The Incredible Chet Baker Plays and Sings. Art picked this as one of two Baker recordings (the other was "If You Could See Me Now") that he felt showed the true spirit and artistry of the man. It's a ballad, for sure, from 1977 sessions in Milan that features Chet on trumpet, Lucio Terzano on bass, Giancarlo Pillot on drums, Jacques Pelzer on flute and soprano sax, Bruce Thomas on piano and Gianni Basso on tenor sax.