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Chet Baker: His Life and Music by Jeroen de Valk

In this solidly researched biography of Chet Baker, Jeroen de Valk has attempted to dispel myths about Baker, pointing out that he was not a has-been, but quite popular in Europe during his last dozen years, and that he was not pushed out of a window, but accidentally fell, causing his death. Moreover, he claims accurately that Baker continued to play well until his 1988 death. De Valk overrates Baker, but he was a distinctive, lyrical trumpeter and uniquely moving singer.

Born in 1929, Baker joined the Army at 16, where he played in a band and heard bop records. He claimed that his first major influence was Dizzy Gillespie, and his playing on live selections from 1952 on Chet Baker Live at the Trade Winds and Bird and Chet Live at the Trade Winds (both on Fresh Sound) supports this. Though his bop lines are Gillespielike, however, his small tone and limited range will remind some listeners of Miles Davis. Later in his career he was strongly marked by Davis, but in 1952 was synthesizing influences. He takes a lot of chances on the Trade Winds CDs, and his solos are substantive, although not always cleanly executed.

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