Chet Baker Photography

Chet Baker

Chet Baker was one of the most gifted and influential jazz trumpeters in the world and came to epitomize West Coast “cool jazz” with a subdued, intimate performance style and charismatic, mellow vocal stylings. Unfortunately, Baker also endured many personal and professional obstacles in a career marred by numerous battles with drug addiction.

The “Prince of Cool,” started playing trumpet as a teenager and performed with military jazz bands during two stints in the Army. He first rose to fame in the 1950s, but his career really took off when he joined jazz legend Charlie Parker for a series of shows in 1952. Towards the end of his career, Elvis Costello asked Baker to record a trumpet solo for his 1983 song “Shipbuilding”—introducing Baker’s music to a brand new generation of fans.

Baker’s amazing talents were often tempered by his erratic behavior. He died in the late ’80s under suspicious circumstances, apparently falling out of a second-story window. Baker was inducted into the Big Band and Jazz Hall of Fame as well as the DownBeat Jazz Hall of Fame. He is portrayed by Ethan Hawke in the 2015 biopic Born to Be Blue.

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