Chesney Henry "Chet" Baker Jr. (December 23, 1929 - May 13, 1988) was born in Yale, Oklahoma. A trumpet player, Baker was an important part of the West coast "cool jazz" school of the 1950s. He first came to prominence in the jazz world as part of the pianoless Gerry Mulligan Quartet -- Mulligan had played with Miles Davis, whose Birth of the Cool is recognized as ushering in the movement. Baker's trumpet playing is characterized by incredibly sweet tones, clear and almost vibrato-less.
Baker's trumpet playing is characterized by incredibly sweet tones, clear and almost vibrato-less. He was also a vocalist, and his vocal stylings matched his trumpet-playing in terms of style and feeling, with an emphasis on clarity and gentleness of expression, rather than vibrato or vocal pyrotechnics.
While he was widely acclaimed musically, and his movie-star good looks ensured plenty of popular attention, his personal life was extremely troubled. A heroin addict, his relationships and life were marked by disorder. His addiction led to jail time, and a street fight with drug dealers caused him the loss of his front and other teeth, which forced him to learn to play the trumpet with dentures.
For the last ten years of his life, Baker lived in Europe, where he toured and recorded extensively. Even though he was sunk in obscurity by the time, jazz afficionados consider his late recordings his best.
He died in 1988 after falling from a window in the Prins Hendrick hotel in Amsterdam, Holland. A plaque recognizing him is attached to the hotel. What would become Baker's last ever performance was held a few days earlier in the jazzbar Dizzy in Rotterdam.
The life and times of Chet Baker were the subject of the Academy Award-nominated documentary Let's Get Lost, which was filmed and released the year of his death. A fictionalized mystery novel called Looking for Chet Baker by Bill Moody was published in 2002.