Date: Fri, 12 Sep 1997 13:40:26 +0000
From: "Peter A. Sokolowski" <>
Subject: Chet Baker and recognition

Hi Folks---

Regarding Chet Baker, Joe wrote:

<<I think Chet's contributions are underrated, perhaps because they lack
   some of the technical pizazz displayed by some of the other bop
   musicians past and present. However, I still consider him one of the
   finest jazz musicians who has ever lived and I think he deserves more
   recognition than he has gotten, as he is truely legendary IMHO.>>

I disagree.  If you were to ask a non-trumpet-playing jazz listenership, I'd wager that Chet Baker is among the very best-known jazz trumpet soloists of all time.  From jazz criticism, I often get the impression that he is regarded as OVER-rated by many critics.  (NB--this is not to say that I don't enjoy his playing immensely:  in fact, I had him in the stereo last night).  Look at Chet Baker's discography and compare it to any player of his generation.  Dorham, Sheldon, C. Candoli, Fagerquist, Byrd, Farmer--all fabulous players but none with the catalog of Baker.  And this with prolonged absences from the scene.

In fact, after Bird himself lay his famous encomium on Baker and his star began to rise, there was considerable backlash against what was considered a reductive (albeit melodic) take on Miles Davis' playing of the late 40's.

But Baker rode the wave which carried Mulligan, Getz, Brubeck, and Kenton to massive audiences of white college students in the 50's and 60's.  Until the Marsalis revolution, I consider this phenomenon to be the most widespread inculcation of jazz since the period when it was indistinguishable from popular music.

He is appreciated by many and justly so.  Amen for once!  Someone who gets his due from the public and actually deserves it.  Let's face it:  unsung heroes of the trumpet are legion, and Chet Baker is famous.

If trumpet students focus on Maynard and Doc, as I think you are implying (to the exclusion of others such as Baker), that's their loss.  But they (we) represent a microscopic commercial entity.

Check out the Bruce Weber film "Let's Get Lost," a fan's look at the life and loves of Baker.  Not for the faint-hearted (and definitely not a family film), but a pretty gritty take on the end of Baker's life.


- --Peter