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Posts Tagged ‘Chet Baker’

Chesney Henry “Chet” Baker, Jr. (December 23, 1929 – May 13, 1988)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

September Song

 

 

 

Summer is slowing down and easing its way into fall, though the dates on the calender don’t seem to be in synch with the world outside. The time seems right for a little time with the icon of West Coast Cool, Chet Baker. There is nothing fussy or over-done in Chet’s music, and always one finds an inwardness, and a communication with the real feelings at the heart of each song. There is a wholeness and integrity of expression and delivery, rarely found elsewhere, even with the best musicians. This is where Chet’s  unique genius is most evident, and it is what makes him unforgettable for me.

And here is the late, great Chet Baker at his best, with an extravaganza of cool, moody standards, in a recording made on October 24, 1955 at the Pathé-Magellan studio in Paris.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 
This comment accompanied the original Youtube upload:

This was a re-scheduled recording, as the original pianist (and also Chet’s best friend and mentor) Dick Twardzick died in his hotel room from a drug overdose as Chet and the rest of the quartet waited for him at the studio. Chet then fell out with his drummer, and two little-known European musicians were hastily recruited for the re-scheduled session three days later.
This beautifully crafted recording reveals a depth of emotion and character that had not previously existed in his playing.

The other musicians in the quartet are Gérard Gustin -piano, Jimmy Bond -bass and  Bert Dahlander-drums.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Musicians like Chet Baker are miracles of their own genre, in Chet’s case, Cool Jazz, and no one can express a moods embedded in these rich compositions quite like he can. He crafts and composes each phrase, each line, each note, connecting them seamlessly, with just the right length of a pause to permit the ear to absorb and the mind to integrate the sounds and feeling. It really feels like pure magic to me. I feel the ethos of his era, and movies languidly spool out their visual accompaniment in my compliant imagination.

It is a spell, an enchantment to which surrender is the best response – where sounds and images and only a mere smattering of almost unneeded words serve to  effect the communication. The result is a feeling of internal fullness, of spilling and swimming in a re-emergence of impressions, dreams and daydreams, of filtered sunlight, print dresses,  absorbing novels, cold beer, the smell and feel of summer, sidewalks damp from watering, rustling leaves, stillness, blue sky….

It is well known that Chet, like many of his fellow musicians like Bill Evans, used drugs, and it is likely that drugs were a part of their creative process. The ordinary consciousness with which we go about our daily business is not usually supportive of the creative process, which requires inwardness, and freedom from business and routine. Our daily tasks are firmly rooted in the domain of unconsciousness and distraction, and in the capable hands of what Colin Wilson referred to as our robot consciousness.

Musicians in particular know this, and since the creative state cannot easily be entered ‘at-will’, it must often be induced, and this is something drugs are known to facilitate. There is a balancing point to be found between the outright endorsement of drug-use and the moral judgements passed by society on addicts. I think it is important to find this place, and to try and understand perhaps why so many musicians and performers use drugs. Performers do not have the luxury of scheduling gigs and performances when they are in an optimum creative state. It is imperative that they be able to switch it on in time for a performance or a recording session, and drugs may provide an easy short-cut.

I am not a musician, but I know that the wonderful music I often hear in my dreams, comes from a part of me I am unable to access when I am awake. Even when music does come to me, I am only able to ‘go along’ with it while it is actually unfolding, and I can never recall it, though I know it to have been unique and wonderful, and a true expression of my own inaccessible creativity.

Chet paid an enormous price for his creativity, and his music. Addiction can be brutal, and Chet lost his front teeth and his embouchure when he was assaulted by thugs. One of his girlfriends, the singer Ruth Young, implies that Baker might have brought this misfortune on himself by antagonising someone who then hired people to rough him up, but we will never know  the truth with any degree of certainty, in part because of Young’s own reason for  believing such a story, and in part because of Chet’s own tendency to embellish incidents in his life so as to present the kind of image he wished to project.

Nevertheless, the assault was followed by a very dark period in Chet’s life. Unable to play the trumpet, he spent five years between the time of his assault, and his next gig  (which lasted for two weeks and was set up for him by Dizzy Gillespie) pumping gas and doing other menial jobs. Eventually Chet re-emerged from his fog, and taught himself  to play again, and eventually to recover his sound.
To my ear, at least, the appeal of Chet’s unique sound, is due in part to how beautifully he sustains his phrases. Even his speech was slow and measured. The sound is unforced, perhaps because it is so much like breathing. The romantic fluency and flowing lyricism with which he imprints his music, and the style referred to as West Coast jazz or ‘Cool Jazz, is at the heart of this genre,  ‘Cool’ has the mood of warm beaches and breeze, and the moods they induce, but of course much more than the lazy carefree feeling of ease and openness. There is the slow savouring of thoughts and emotions, dictated by a pace which matches that of unhurried reflection. Cool gives our feelings their due. Chet’s music had a universal appeal.

Chet’s music was loved and admired in Europe, even though a supposed drug-bust in Italy resulted in a 16-month jail term, (its never a good thing to run afoul of the authourities in Italy) and being treated persona non grata in several European countries.  Chet spoke French and Italian with a remarkable degree of fluency. He sand in Italian, and starred in a movie Hell’s Horizon.

Shortly before Chet’s death Brice Weber was making a semi-documentary film of Chets life called Let’s Get Lost. By that time, Chet had begun to resemble a beautiful ruin, his movie-star good looks long since having given way to a face on which his difficult history was uncompromisingly recorded. Still, he never lost his touch, and continued to sing and play right to the end of his life.

In May of 1988, Chet was found dead outside his hotel room in the Netherlands. The autopsy revealed traces of drugs in his system. The death was ruled accidental, the official view was that he fell out of his second storey window. A friend who checked the room after the ‘accident’ remarked that the window was old, and did not open far enough to allow someone to fall out of it.

Weber’s film was completed shorty after Chet died. It is an astonishingly beautiful movie, filmed in lush black and white, and featuring recreated scenes, as well as scenes from Chet’s movies, in-depth interviews with Chet’s friends, associates, fellow-musicians, girlfriends, ex-wife Carol Baker, his mother and his children. It is worth watching, for anyone who would wish to know more about the life of this very human and very flawed man, who was despite all his tragedies and set-backs, nevertheless an astonishingly wonderful musician.

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These Foolish Things
Eric Maschwitz Lyrics
Jack Strachey Music

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Ella Fitzgerald

Pia Beck

Chet Baker

Nat King Cole

Oscar Peterson

Frank Sinatra

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

These Foolish Things      

                     

A cigarette that bears a lipstick’s traces,
An airline ticket to romantic places,
And still my heart has wings…
These foolish things remind me of you.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A tinkling piano in the next apartment,
Those stumbling words that told you what my heart meant,
A fairground’s painted swings…
These foolish things remind me of you.

 

 

 

 

You came, you saw,
You conquered me.
When you did that to me,
I knew somehow this had to be.

 

 

 

 

 

 

The winds of march that made my heart a dancer,
A telephone that rings,
And who’s to answer?
Oh, how the ghost of you clings…
These foolish things remind me of you.

 

 

 

 

 

First daffodils and long excited cables,
And candle light on little corner tables,
And still my heart has wings…
These foolish things remind me of you.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The park at evening when the bell has sounded,
The ‘Ile de France’ with all the gulls around it,
The beauty that is spring’s…
These foolish things remind me of you.

 

 

 

 

How strange, how sweet
To find you still,
These things are dear to me,
They seem to bring you near to me.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The sigh of midnight trains in empty stations,
Silk stockings tossed aside, dance invitations.
Oh, how the ghost of you clings!
These foolish things remind me of you…

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

These foolish things remind me of you.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Eric Maschwitz Lyrics
Jack Strachey Music

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The story goes that Eric Maschwitz wrote the lyrics to this classic when he was parted from Anna May Wong, the glamorous American movie star (Maschwitz was British.) Whether the story is true or not is impossible to establish with any degree of certainty. Wong had a long career in Hollywood despite the caustic racism and blatant discrimination of the day. She never married, and is rumoured to have had affairs with Alla Nazimova and  Marlene Dietrich.

Whether or not Wong was involved with Eric Maschwitz, she was the worthy muse of his inspiration. His plaintive lyrics found their perfect match in Jack Strachy’s music, and they collaborated to put the two together in the space of a single day.

I have included six versions of the song in this post, including Ella Fitzgerald’s rendition, which, as always is remarkable for its unlaboured clarity and unforced emotion.

I love Pia Beck’s playing for many reasons, but particularly I think because I grew up listening to recordings of Erroll Garner’s music, and her style reminds me of his. Not that Pia isn’t great in her own right – she is – and the sound of applause you hear could be from the patrons of her own piano-bar in Churriana, Spain, where she and her partner Marga lived since 1965. They died within five months of each other in 2009.

(http://eurout.org/2009/11/26/dutch-lesbian-jazz-pianist-and-singer-pia-beck-dies-84)
The other four artists featured here, Chet Baker, Oscar Peterson, Nat King Cole and Frank Sinatra,

 

need no introduction. They each infuse this song with their own individual spirit and character, but I think Chet Baker stays the truest to the original sentiment suggested by the lyrics.

I first heard this tune in the late ’50’s, when I was about 5 years old. I lived with my grandparents in Kandy (Ceylon) and my parents would come up from Colombo for the occasional weekend visit. Both my parents played this song on the old black-varnished the piano with the brass candlesticks and ivory keys, in my grandparents’ living-room, but I preferred my father’s treatment of the tune. I would make him play it on every visit. Sometimes I would sit on his lap and place my hands lightly on his, while he played.

I have no exact recollection of how I learned the lyrics of this song, but they always created familiar images in my mind – as if the words came out of my own memory. Tinkling pianos and lipstick-stained cigarettes were familiar to me since both my parents smoked, and both played the piano.

When I listen to this song  now, it evokes a time that slipped outside time for me. The ghost of the ’50’s lives in me somewhere, and when I hear these familiar notes, it comes to stand close behind me, to share the moment.

 

http://lolitasclassics.blogspot.com/2009/08/anna-may-wong-1905-1961.html

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“Estate,” by Bruno Brighetti  (lyrics) and Bruno Martino (music) is an Italian classic, but it has been sung in English and Spanish as well, and there is even a French version, with remarkably inept lyrics which have nothing  at all to do with the original feeling of the composition.

Listening to this small piece of perfection, so introspective, evocative and mood-suffused, becomes a meditation  – a remembrance of things past.

It captures  completely the feeling of beautiful summer and lost love, when a season of opulence and brilliance becomes a lingering ghost, and when poetry and music come together as if they were in love with each other
In my search for this post, I came across a bewildering number of versions to choose from. I picked the ones which appealed to me the most. My feeling is that it is criminal to take liberties with this song – but there are so many musicians who do: they give in to the temptation to use it as a showcase for their skills, in ways that are less than appropriate and roll over it like a steamroller, with complete disregard for the integrity of the poetry and sentiment at its heart.

This is a song which demands to be performed in a natural and heart-felt manner. Not all the versions here are perfect – but they are the best I could find.

I wish that Chet Baker had been able to collaborate with Bill Evans on this one.

This is a piece of music for which less is always more.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Estate

 

Estate

Sei calda come i baci che ho perduto 
Sei piena di un amore che è passato
Che il cuore mio vorrebbe cancellare

Estate
Il sole che ogni giorno ci scaldava
Che splendidi tramonti dipingeva
Adesso brucia solo con furore

Tornerà un altro inverno
Cadranno mille pètali di rose
La neve coprirà tutte le cose
E forse un po’ di pace tornerà

Estate
Che ha dato il suo profumo ad ogni fiore
L’ estate che ha creato il nostro amore
Per farmi poi morire di dolore

Estate

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Summer                                                  

(English translation)
You are warm like the kisses I have lost
You’re full of a love that has passed
That my heart would wish to erase

Summer
The sun that warmed us each day
What splendid sunsets it painted
Now burns only with fury

Another winter will return
And the roses shed a thousand petals
The snow will cover everything
And perhaps a little peace will return.

Summer
Which imparted perfume to each flower
The summer that created our love
To make me then die of grief

Summer

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Estate

(English lyrics)

You bathe me in the glow of your caresses
You’ve turned my timid no to eager yeses
You sweep away my sorrow with your sigh

Estate
Oh how the golden sunlight bends the willow
Your perfume sends the blossoms to my pillow
Oh who could know you half as well as I

I always feel you near me
In every song the morning breeze composes
In all the tender wonder of the roses
Each time the setting sun shines on the sea

Estate
And when you sleep beneath a snowy cover
I’ll keep you in my heart just like a lover
And wait until you come again to me – Estate

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Verano                                                   

(Spanish lyrics)

Verano ardiente como el
beso que he perdido
Recuerdos de un amor que ha pasado
Y que me corazón no ha de borrar

Odio el verano
El sol y su calor nos abrazaban
Que esplendidos ocasos nos pintaba
Ahora sólo quema con réncor

volverá un nuevo invierno
y caerán mil pétalos de rosas
la nieve cubrirá todas las cosas        
quizás algo de paz retornará

Odio el verano
que ha dado su perfume a las flores
verano que has creado las pasiones
nacer para morirme de dolor

volverá un nuevo invierno
y caerán mil pétalos de rosas
la nieve cubrirá todas las cosas
quizás algo de paz retornará

Odio el verano
odio el verano
odio el verano
odio el verano

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Three more irresistible tracks…..

Bill Evans (August 16th 1929 - September 15th 1988)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Monica Zetterlund (September 20th 1937-May 5th 2005)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Monica sings ‘I’m so lucky to be Me’

 

 

 

 

Chet Baker (December 23rd 1929-May 13th 1988)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Chet Baker (December 23rd 1929 - May 13th 1988)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Chet’s interpretation gives Bruno Brighetti’s timeless composition the treatment. A beautiful song with spare and piercing lyrics: Nothing wasted here, and every note is made to count just as every word in the song.

The first faltering notes come after almost seeming to have missed their cue – and with that strange yet familiar reverberation of the hollow sound of an exhaled breath passing over the lip of a bottle – or the sound of the wind that comes with – well – less of an echo than the close company of its own sound shadow.

If thoughts made sounds when they emerged out of nowhere – perhaps this is the sound they might make.

When the beauty of summer is too much to bear, and we long for its passing – this is the sound we will recognise as being the sound of the passing of unsaid words.

 

 

 

 

Estate


Sei calda come i baci che ho perduto

Sei piena di un amore che è passato

Che il cuore mio vorrebbe cancellare

Estate

Il sole che ogni giorno ci scaldava

Che splendidi tramonti dipingeva


Adesso brucia solo con furore

Tornerà un altro inverno

Cadranno mille pètali di rose

La neve coprirà tutte le cose

E forse un po’ di pace tornerà

Estate

Che ha dato il suo profumo ad ogni fiore


L’ estate che ha creato il nostro amore

Per farmi poi morire di dolore

 

Estate

Summer

You are as hot as the kisses, that I have lost


You are filled with a love, that is over

That my heart would like to erase

Summer

The sun, that warmed us every day

That painted beautiful sunsets

Now only burns with fury

There will come another winter

Thousands of rose petals will fall

The snow will cover all

And perhaps a little peace will return

Summer

That gave its perfume to every flower

The summer, that created our love

To let me now die of pain

Summer

 

 

 

 

 

 

About the song….

http://www.michaelsattler.com/jazz-standards/estate/summer.html

 

This is the URL for a great blog featuring lots of Chet Baker.

http://thehelplessdancer.wordpress.com/tag/chet-baker/

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