Chet Baker: Time Unhinged

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Chet Baker was a jazz romantic quietly frustrated that the passage of time refused to slow down. The early 1950s was his moment, and the years that followed moved like sand through his hands, leaving him confounded and depressed. Like a movie star who suddenly grows too old for the parts he or she played best, Baker found himself lost, unable to retrace his steps home. For someone who looked and played sweet, Baker's eyes viewed the future with exhaustion. For Baker, tomorrow was an option, a place he didn't have to experience if he didn't want to. He seemed to resent and resist all that was new, preferring the intoxicating comfort of the early 1950s, years that had been a blissful period for him.

Here are six offbeat Baker videos that illustrate his uneasiness with time's rush and the anxiety he felt trying to slow it down... 

Here's Baker in Rome in 1956...



Here's Baker with drummer Kenny Clarke in Belgium in 1960...



Here's a French documentary in 1963...



Here's a short film in 1963...



Here's a very brief answer to an interviewer's question about music...



Here's I'm a Fool to Want You...



Bonus: For me, the album that best captures Chet Baker in his preferred moment is Chet Baker & Strings, recorded in late 1953 and early 1954. Here's the entire album...

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This story appears courtesy of JazzWax by Marc Myers.
Copyright © 2021. All rights reserved.

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