Looking For Chet Baker BOOK review [Bill Moody]

Book Reviews
Looking For Chet Baker BOOK review [Bill Moody]
Mar 1, 2002, 04:12

LOOKING FOR CHET BAKER by Bill Moody; Walker Books, 2002

In 1988, legendary jazz trumpeter Chet Baker fell to his death from a hotel window in Amsterdam. A notorious junkie, Baker was doubtlessly high at the time, yet questions persist about whether he was murdered by a drug dealer to whom he was in debt, committed suicide (frustrated by a lack of appreciation in the States, Baker, like so many other jazz artists, retreated in his last years to Europe, where his genius found a more receptive audience), or simply nodded out and slipped to his death.

Novelist and jazz drummer Bill Moody explores these questions and more in Looking for Chet Baker, the fifth in his Evan Horne mystery series. Pianist and former private investigator Horne, in London playing a series of gigs at Ronnie Scott's, is approached by an old acquaintance, a musicologist who is researching a book on Baker. Happy to have his chops back after an accident which temporarily crippled the use of one of his hands, Horne is anxious to focus on his music and to put the investigating business behind him, so he refuses his friend's persistent pleas for assistance. When the academic suddenly goes missing in Amsterdam, however, Horne is pulled unwillingly into the case, which seems to be connected to his friend's research into Baker's death.

Moody does an excellent job of not only painting an illuminating portrait of a complex and often difficult musician, but he provides an insider's perspective on the jazz world and on the creative process that a non-musician just couldn't give. Anyone looking for further information on Chet Baker would do well to check out J. De Valk's excellent, recently translated biography, Chet Baker: His Life and Music (Berkeley Hills Books, 2000). Also worth seeking out is the currently out-of-print documentary, Let's Get Lost, released just a year before Baker's death.

-Patrick Milliken

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