Chet Baker: Cold Trumpet


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In 1959, trumpeter Chet Baker was in Europe touring and recording. An addict since the early 1950s, Baker found scoring drugs abroad relatively easy. When his connections in Italy dried up, he began visiting doctors, complaining of headaches and leaving with charitable prescriptions. From May through July 1960, Baker filled 23 prescriptions for Palfium—a narcotic three times more powerful than morphine but shorter-lasting—from a single doctor in Lucca, to be dosed through a syringe.

In the summer of '60, Baker overdosed and was detained in Lucca along with the doctors who had been supplying his habit. In April 1961, Baker was convicted and sentenced to 16 months in prison but released in December. He found studio and film work in Italy and remained there until 1964, when he was busted in Germany and deported.

During his time in Italy, Baker made a surrealist film in 1963 directed by Italian filmmaker Enzo Nasso. The short movie was called Tromba Fredda (Cold Trumpet). While the film is a bit heavy and stale by today's standards, we do get to see a disheveled, demon-riddled Baker performing a role and hear his original score...

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This story appears courtesy of JazzWax by Marc Myers.
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