A few weeks ago I caught up with Bruce Weber’s Let’s Get Lost (1988) documentary which is about legendary jazz artist Chet Baker. It is a beautiful and seminal biopic of someone’s life through their own eyes. If you have never seen it I can highly recommend it. It is beautifully shot and edited. Weber and Baker became very close friends which adds to the candour and beauty of it all.
I have always been a huge fan of Chet’s. Just the name Chet sounds cool doesn’t it? Chet had it all – amazingly handsome and cool of gait, ridiculous talent for playing the trumpet, brilliant songwriter and his honeycoated voice was so original one wonders how he managed to be so perfect. He also had an legendary appetite for drugs, drink and all out self-destruction. Somehow, despite the fact he lost all his front teeth (official version: in a fight, apparently too ashamed to admit was actually through drug use) he re-adjusted his ’embouchure’ and had to learn to play with dentures. For many trumpet players in this position their career would be over or at the very least their technique/sound changed – Chet’s never faltered. He was a perfectionist.
Chet’s version of My Funny Valentine is epic. My best and sadly departed friend Abbie secretly arranged for a band to play it for me once in a crabshack in US – absolutely brilliant. Despite his his crazy fucked up life he remained true to his sound, his instrument and his work. An enigmatic, clever and tragic man. A beautiful man.
This is Chet in 1987 (a year before he died) performing My Funny Valentine in Tokyo. I really do recommend you watch and listen to it to the end as Chet hated it when people talked all the way through. He really did like hearing the audience listen and so they should. Ironically it wasn’t the drugs that killed him. He fell from his apartment window in Amsterdam in 1988.
Shivers, goosebumps, tears. A remarkable man.