Ethan Hawke As “Chet Baker”


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This seems to be the season for a new round of films based, more or less, on the lives of jazz trumpet players. See the October 11 Rifftides post about Don Cheadle as Miles Davis. The latest entry in the category is Born To Be Blue, which was screened yesterday and today in special presentations at the Toronto Film Festival. Ethan Hawke plays Chet Baker or—as Variety’s Andrew Barker writes in his review:

“a character who happens to share a name and a significant number of biographical similarities with Chet Baker, taking the legendary West Coast jazz musician’s life as though it were merely a chord chart from which to launch an improvised set of new melodies.”

In an earlier era, cornetists Bix Beiderbecke (Young Man With a Horn, 1950) and Red Nichols (The Five Pennies, 1959) were honored, if that’s the appropriate term, with portrayals that also altered biographical facts to satisfy artistic license. In this teaser scene, Hawke as Baker plays for a couple of record industry suits.

Hawke reportedly spent six months learning to play the trumpet as he prepared for the role. Pre-release publicity for the movie does not say who plays in that scene but, clearly, the sound track is dubbed from the only recording I know in which Baker plays “Over The Rainbow.” It picks up on the second eight bars of his solo.

Chet Baker in Rome in 1962 with Amadeo Tomassi, piano; Benoit Quersin, bass; and Daniel Humair, drums, from Chet Is Back!. The album also has Baker with two formidable Belgians, tenor saxophonist Bobby Jaspar and guitarist René Thomas, and on four tracks with the film composer Ennio Morricone and his orchestra.

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This story appears courtesy of Rifftides by Doug Ramsey.
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