From his emergence in the 1950s - when an uncannily beautiful young man from Oklahoma appeared on the West Coast to become, virtually overnight, a giant of "cool" jazz - until his mysterious death in 1988, the story of Chet Baker has all the trappings of an American myth. In this biography of Baker's life, James Gavin gives the reader a full ...
From his emergence in the 1950s - when an uncannily beautiful young man from Oklahoma appeared on the West Coast to become, virtually overnight, a giant of "cool" jazz - until his mysterious death in 1988, the story of Chet Baker has all the trappings of an American myth. In this biography of Baker's life, James Gavin gives the reader a full account of this dark journey. Starting with Baker's tormented youth - the pain that would haunt his entire life, barely concealed by an enigmatic, ultracool facade - the author re-creates the birth of the uniquely lyrical, if erratic, trumpet player and the fragile tenor voice that catapulted Baker to fame. His magnetic looks and anguished bearing entranced both sexes, but his only real romance, apart from music, was with drugs. Gavin narrates in detail the harrowing spiral of dependency down which Baker tumbled, dragging with him those who dared to get close.
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Publishers Weekly, 2002-04-22 The 1988 funeral of famed trumpet player and vocalist Chet Baker in L.A. was emblematic of the disorder and dysfunction of his life though he was world famous, only a small clique of loyal fans and family attended, and they were fighting with one another. Even his death in Amsterdam (possibly an overdose or drug-related murder) was an unsettled, sordid enigma. Gavin's elegantly written and thoroughly researched biography traces the astonishing highs and lows of Baker's personal and professional life. Born in 1929 in Oklahoma to a doting mother and alcoholic father, he spent 18 months in the army at age 17 before his prodigious talent blossomed when he went back to high school. Aggressively pursuing his career, he became famous for both his trumpet playing and his equally impressive hard drug habit, both of which increased over the next two decades. Gavin is superb at placing Baker in a clearly defined cultural context the "defiant new youth culture: Marlon Brando, Montgomery Clift, and James Dean, all of whom symbolized disgust with every false hope infecting America" and in explicating Baker's out-of-control actions. Gavin has an unerring eye for the salient detail as he charts the continual down-spiraling of the trumpeter's life. Drawing upon a wealth of personal interviews, music journal reviews, national media, jazz criticism and a sound sociological sense of the period, Gavin has produced a stark, troubling portrait of both the artist and his times. (May) Forecast: As a companion to the book, which should add to the books sales, Blue Note Records will release a CD of this icon's work. (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved
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