Vol 3 No.1
A Newsletter Dedicated To Chet Baker And His Music
Harold Danko, pianist, composer, bandleader and teacher, talked with us about Chet, jazz then and now. He worked with Chet from ‘73-’76 and again in ‘86-’87. Chet’s charisma, addiction, and the inner pain which some contend was the source of his music are often the focal points when Chet Baker appears in the media. the "normal man and sweet guy” that Harold knew just does not get much space. True, Chet did not often resist “if the interviewer/director/fan was into the charisma thing; he was a good actor.” There were other facets to his character, and Harold prefers to tell us about those.
DANKO’S RECENT DOINGS
Teaching at the Manhattan School of Music since 1984 as well as the New School in New York City, doing jazz workshops all over the world plus playing gigs both as a leader and a sideman fill Harold’s days and nights. The author of THE ILLUSTRATED KEYBOARD SERIES (CCP/Belwin) says, “You don’t learn to improvise: you improvise to learn.” His quartet has played together for more than two years. Harold has been com-posing a lot, and the Quartet has recorded for Steeplechase. Rich Perry, tenor saxophone, Scott Colley, drums, or Jay Anderson, bass, and Harold are in the current group.
His recording with Kirk Lightsey, SHORTER BY TWO (Sunnyside SSC 1004), received 4 ½ stars from Downbeat. Rhapsody Films video LEE KONITZ & HAROLD DANKO received raves from Doug Ramsey in Jazz Times. One can observe Harold’s and Lee’s teaching styles as well as their artistry on the video.
In November of 1992, he returned from a European tour with Red Rodney, the trumpe-ter whose career roared into high gear with the release of Clint Eastwood’s movie, BIRD.
The tour was a musical challenge and Rodney is a reservoir of jazz history. Red can testify that Bird pioneered in more areas than jazz. In the 40’s and 50’s the South was still segregated. Parker hired Red Rodney, who is white, to do a southern tour with him. In those days integrated groups did not play the South, except for Charlie Parker’s, whose solution was as creative as his invention of bop. Red Rodney, bebop trumpeter, was introduced as Albino Red, a great bluesman. Red brought it off although he had some worrisome moments while becoming an instant bluesman.
Harold’s exuberance about playing with Red transmits over the phone. “Here’s this little guy playing trumpet at age 66 better than ever, and packing them in at Ronnie Scott’s in London and the new Ronnie Scott’s in Birmingham (England). He lives in Florida and most of his friends are retired, playing cards and shuffleboard; but he’s having the time of his life. He’s playing great – stronger and better, with the energy of a 25-year-old kid.
“This was the closest I’ve come to the feeling I experienced while playing with Woody (Herman).” Rodney is “easy to work for, it’s easy to know what he wants”, and very exciting because Red want you to “go for it” on every solo. “It’s very extroverted Bebop. He does the fast tempos; he still spits those things out. When I asked red about it, he said
‘When you’re around Bird you just come up to it. He lifted you up and that stays with you. You know what it is.’” Harold muses, “Red can really wail.”
THE CHET YEARS
Harold remembers the Chet years. “For about 3 years I was Chet’s piano player. In 1973, Phil Urso and Chet arrived at the Half Note to begin the gig Dizzy Gillespie had arranged. I was playing in Turn Mauro’s band. Chet liked the rhythm section and hired us. We had a great relationship; I was like a younger brother.
“This was my first small group exposure. Phil had copied Chet’s music down so I could learn the tunes more easily. He was a great help tome. When Phil left, I got the job of booking rhythm sections. I made call to people like bassist Ron Carter to ask, ‘Can you do a gig with Chet Baker?’” This was a great way for a young musician to make contact with a lot of the prominent drummers and bass players.
An interviewer in Dayton in 1974 sticks in Harold’s memory because he symbolizes the way the media usually tried to make Chet into something he was not. “We were in Dayton having a normal breakfast of bacon and eggs and the interviewer gave a detailed description of his perception of Chet’s playing and then asked Chet, “When you play, what are you thinking about?” Chet responded very off-handedly, ‘Oh, the next pretty note.’” When further asked t comment on the worst thing about drugs, Chet responded, “The cost.”
Chet, in Harold’s opinion, felt that he had the right to conduct his personal life any way he chose to, and it was no once else’s business. One time when an interviewer pressed him about the drug problem, Chet rattled off his accomplishments for the year: “I’ve played 150 gigs, made 2 movies, done 15 radio shows, and made 12 recordings.” The unasked question, “What did you do?” hung in the air.
Chet’s belief that one’s choices were one’s personal business applied to others. Harold notes that he had completed experimenting with drugs before he joined Chet, yet “Chet accepted me as I am.” Although Chet was not a terrific businessman, Harold says “I was always paid first,” and Chet was very understanding about Harold’s teaching obligations.
Chet’s pithy one-liners when he was not pleased with the music were often made from the bandstand; thus, creating embarrassing moments for the other musicians. One night he said to a bass player: “It’s not right; kindergarten notes.”
On another occasion the music critic Leonard Feather was in the audience when Chet announced, ”It’s not swinging.” The rest of the group was afraid that this would be the tag line of Leonard’s review. Fortunately Leonard didn’t hear it or chose to ignore it.
“Chet taught me a lot about comping,” and he recalls a specific night in Detroit: “We were doing STELLA BY STARLIGHT and Chet was having awful teeth problems. The more he tried and could get no sound, the more chords I’d play to cover. I thought I was helping until on the mike he said, ‘Harold, you don’t have to play every chord.’”
Tom Kirkpatrick, trumpeter, asked Chet to give him lessons. Chet replied that lessons weren’t necessary, but he could just give him some advice.
CHET BAKER’S DIRECTIONS FOR PLAYING TRUMPET
1. You have to figure out in your head what it is you want to play.
2. Then you have to figure out where that is on the horn.
3. You can’t settle for anything less on the horn than what is in your head.
This no-nonsense advice is often cited in Harold’s teaching.
ET, THE MAN AND THE LEGEND
“He looked a bit like an Oklahoma cowboy who hadn’t eaten for awhile, but he had the ability to cast that spell.” Harold’s description captures Chet’s Oklahoma taproots which remained strong even as he evolved into a premiere member of the West Coast Cool School. Of such paradoxes are legends made.
Harold admired Chet’s ability to detect whether someone was going after the persona or his musicianship; however, he thinks Chet would have vehemently disapproved of the final cut of the film LET’S GET LOST because it dealt with the charisma, his aging – read physical decline – and not his musicianship. (Lots of footage; I have been told that the rough cut was 4 hours long – perhaps another story remains in the excluded footage.)
A particularly out-of-character sequence, according to Harold, was the car scene where Chet is in the back seat with two babes. Harold said that Chet always drove. That was the director’s vision: “That whole characterization of him was staged.”
Harold wished to counter the above image with the following bit of Americana: “I remember a Sunday afternoon drive to Long Island with Chet, Carol and the kids in the Mustang in the late summer of 1973 – simply a guy on his way to a gig with his family and the piano player along for the ride – so normal it reminds me much more of LEAVE IT TO BEAVER than LET’S GET LOST.
Most of Chet’s associates have car stories and Harold did not disappoint me. “While with the group I was Chet’s official rider because I could deal with riding and not saying anything for 400 miles.” The cliché which many colleagues have used in describing him is confirmed by Harold: Chet was truly a man of few words. He spoke through his horn. When he played, he was totally focused on the music. When he drove he gave total concentration to that activity. Harold was often asked if Chet weren’t stoned when he drove. He thought Chet probably was, but Chet was so focused on driving that he always drove well. “I don’t know of Chet ever having an accident. His usual speed was between 70 and 100, and if there was a traffic jam he would drive on the shoulder to get around it.
He was blessed.”
Harold rejoined Chet in ‘86-’87. “In November ’86 Chet was at the Whippoorwill and I went to see him and sat in. I can retain tunes and he seemed happy to have me back. Chet hired me for his return engagement in December. At that gig he mentioned, ‘Do you want to go to Holland and record?’ I said, ‘OK.’” Deals were concluded just that fast and casually.
A video, CHET BAKER IN TOKYO – MY FUNNY VALENTINE and several CDs resulted from this collaboration. These recordings contain some of Chet’s finest work, and Harold is superb. TIDAL BREEZE, a tune that Harold wrote when he was just out of high school appears on two of Chet’s CDs: ONCE UPON A SUMMERTIME and DEEP IN A DREAM OF YOU. It is a lovely melodic piece. Harold is pleased because “It stayed in the book after the ‘70s even when I was not playing with the group.”
JAZZ MUSICIANS TODAY AND YESTERDAY
I was fascinated with Harold’s comments on today’s jazz scene and the changes. “My generation of jazz musicians can make more money as sidemen than as leaders. It’s a generation, 35 to 50, which came up in the old fashioned way. We played with great players and then hoped to become a leader. There aren’t the Dizzy’s, Chet’s and Sarah’s
to work with anymore. You can’t spend 4 years playing nightly with big bands. Now the kids are discovered in high school or college jazz programs, given big contracts and expected to start producing hits.”
Harold explains that young musicians know a great deal about the technical end of the business, ie, which equipment to use, etc. They are concerned with quality control and marketing the final product but they have not had the long apprenticeship on the band-stand which used to be standard. He adds that his generation has had to become more involved in the final product and marketing as well.
This is quite a contrast to Chet’s approach to recording. “While in Holland Chet had a contract to do 100 minutes of recording. He laid down a number of tracks including two takes of ROUND MIDNIGHT. He asked how many minutes we had done. When they said 102, Chet began packing up his horn. Selection of takes to be used and sequencing of the tunes was left to others.” Harold explains, “Even if it was a bad take (Chet believed) it was honest.” As others have noted, Chet was a master improviser. With improvisation being the heart of jazz he did not go for splicing, editing, etc.
There was also another rationale for his behavior; in the days when Chet began the production/business was more likely to be handled by other musicians than businessmen, lawyers and marketing-research departments.
“Chet charmed my parents. We were driving to Chicago and stopped off at 5 am at their home in Ohio. Chet drives in, opens the hood and he and Dad are looking at the motor of the Mustang. We go in for breakfast. Mom offers Chet more coffee and we just visit. Since my older brothers and I are musicians my parents are used to having us and our friends drop by at odd hours to eat, hang out and jam. When Mom kisses me good bye she says, ‘That’s Chet Baker?’ ‘Yeah.’ ‘Is he a drug addict?’ ‘Yeah.’ ‘He’s such a nice guy.’”
I REMEMBER CHET
That’s the way Harold wants to remember him – “an unpretentious person with a unique musical gift and a ‘personal problem’ that took about 10 minutes a day. He was really quite a normal guy.” Betty Little
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The Cadence Jazz Records album THE IMPROVISOR (CJR 1019 1984) has only been released in LP format to date (is out not on CD, ed). The liner notes on the album were written by Per Husby, a pianist and recorder from Norway. Cadence Jazz Records has given us permission to reprint the liner notes from that album which give an insight into Chet Baker’s musical life. Here’s Per Husby:
I guess I was the one responsible for bringing Chet to Norway for these club dates in the first place. The arrangers of the Vadso Jazz Festival in northern Norway had asked me to come up with some suggestions for an American ‘name’ artist to top their bill in the 1983 Festival. Since the festival is a rather small, three-day event, with very limited economic resources, the artist in question had to come up as a single working with local Norwegian rhythm section.
I had heard Chet in concert with Stan Getz in Oslo the same spring and had been greatly impressed by the radiant personality Chet represented on stage – shy, open, friendly, withdrawn – all together in a very fascinating mixture. Even in the company of the musical charisma of Getz I think most people in the audience felt Baker’s presence as the focal point on stage that night. Commenting on this effect a girl friend of mine came up with a comment that stuck in my head: “He looks so vulnerable.”
Chet has a background all too well known. It’s grist for the rumor makers – people that excel in the dramatic part of any story without giving you the rest of the pictures, suiting their own needs without too much regard to factual relevance or social/personal con-siderations. So Chet has a reputation, parts of which made me a shade reluctant having never met him before. Calling Chan Parker in Paris and presenting her with some of the more negative things I had heard, brought forth, “No, no, no, no, no – Chet isn’t mean.”
(She always opens up a non-affirmative sentence with at least five ‘no’s – maybe in order to find time to turn down the persistent Bill Evans tapes going in the background – and she’s a great judge of persons.)
So, Chet came to Vadso in early August, wearing beach sandals, a newly-acquired Stetson type hat, corduroy jeans and a thin sweater. All very well for most places, but not for a play situated at the same latitude as Point Barrow, Alaska and having Murmansk, Russia, as the nearest major city where snow in mid-July wouldn’t cause too many raised eyebrows. (Chet was visibly hurt when some stupid lady approached him and claimed that he was just wearing the hat “to look special.” “I don’t think I need a hat to be special,” he remarked with a slightly tired smile indicating a self-ironic reference to his own past.) He wouldn’t admit to being bothered by the rather unmediterrenean climate.
“N, no, that’s no problem. The only problem is I’ve got no horn!” And the nearest instrument store is 300 miles away. His horn had been stolen in Paris and he only had an extra mouthpiece with him. Thoughts of Russian helicopters in from Murmansk flew through my head but I could see some practical obstacles arising. While he had dinner a madcap race through the 4,000 inhabitants’ dwellings was staged in order to dig up an instrument. Chet ate very little. “I’ve got to stop losing weight like this but I have no appetite at all.” Aided by a glutton pianist, the two dinners were sufficiently downed to avoid any retaliation from a rather quick-tempered New Zealand cook.
The horn arrive 25 minutes before the concert which gave us exactly 15 minutes for a combined sound check and rehearsal for a 1 ½ hour concert! Opening up the concert, Chet wanders on stage, turns to the trio and says: “Let’s play Ding,” then stomps off the tempo and goes right into “Mr. B.” Total confusion quickly develops and the whole thing comes to an early halt. “What’s the matter – did I start in the wrong key?” he says, turning around. “No, wrong tune.” “Oh-“ he turns back and addresses the audience way off mike. “As you’ll gather we’ve got this concert timed down to the nearest split second!” From then on there were nothing but good vibes between musicians and audience. Later that evening Chet borrows my tapes from the concert, the music was pretty good, but Chet isn’t at all satisfied. “I can play better than that,” he mutters.
Proof came two days later. Chet still has no horn so I had borrowed a horn from my next-door neighbor who is a spare-time big band trumpeter and who had spent most of the afternoon polishing and washing his horn to put it in the best possible condition. The scene is the Hot House in Oslo, a club with a part-time jazz policy, nicely laid out for a good rapport between the musicians and the audience, but on many nights characterized by the sound level created by the audience being rather more prominent than the sounds produced from the stage.
Not on this night, however. The club is nicely filled up and it’s obvious that these people came to listen. I see many of the die-hard jazz fans of my own youth and a good many musicians. Chet is there chatting jovially with a bunch of loyal fans over some discographical details three decades back. A new drummer is on and after he’s finished setting up there’s just time for a friendly handshake before we go on. “How’s the horn?”
I ask. “Don’t know, haven’t tried it yet,” is the answer. Opening the trumpet case, he mutters, “It looks good enough,” then puts the mouthpiece on, blows some air through it and we’re on.
I shall not tell you too much about the quality of the music, that’s up to your ears to decide. Fact is, however, that the total ambiance created by music, room and audience that night led some rather critical souls in the audience to exclaim that this was the best music they’d ever heard in the club. Hopefully some of that total ambience has also spilled over into these grooves, for the benefit of those who were not present. Chet was happy, too. “I really felt like playing tonight,” he said. “Can we go somewhere to eat?
I think I could eat a whole pizza on my own.” He was wrong – he had two.
The return engagement came earlier than expected. Filling up a sudden hole in his touring scheme he was back two weeks later, first touring the western part of Norway in a trio setting with two other Norwegian musicians and, on the return, coming through Oslo for a one-nighter at the Club 7. The Vadso drummer was back this time but we had a new bass player so again the setting was rather impromptu with not time for rehearsals.
I had brought down a lead sheet of Sam Rivers’ “Beatrice” for Chet because I wanted to call his attention to a seldom-played tune that I imagined would fit very well in with Chet’s style. As I sat down at his table, exchanging cordialities with people around, Chet
Caught a glimpse of the lead sheet. “Ah, Beatrice – that’s a very nice tune but so few guys know it. Per, do you think we could play that tonight if you give the bass player the chords?” So much for coincidence.
Chet had also brought a cassette player and played some tapes for me from the west country gigs. One of the tunes was "Margarine”, an angular ‘rhythm-based’ tune that immediately caught my fancy. “Do you like it? Well, let’s play it tonight, then.” We did and the result was some of the most hard-hitting, steaming trumpet work I’ve ever heard from Chet Baker.
Chet met with a very friendly, warm atmosphere in Norway from musicians and audiences alike and I hope this good feeling comes through in the music. I also think he enjoyed playing with the musicians he met here. At least he told us that he wanted to play with us again next time he came. All of us. Which means next time he will play with a quite original set-up, including three drummers, four bass players, the pianists, a vibes player and a baritone saxophonist with a hypothalamus problem. We’re all looking forward to it.
In order to understand the slightly tentative opening of “Margarine” you should know that Chet is a musician playing exclusively by ear – key signatures or chord symbols mean very little to him. When asked what key he plays a certain tune in he is likely to answer something like, “I don’t know but I start on F on my horn.” In the case of “Margarine,” this was a totally impromptu performance. Just before we started I asked Chet: “It is in b-flat isn’t it?” Chet seemed to nod affirmatively so Terjo started out in b-flat, which Chet is actually playing the head in F! Actually, the effect is quite interesting and by the second chorus or so we’ve all agreed upon a common key. The strength of his playing here amazes me, as does the incredibly long lines he plays. Where does he take the air from? I especially like the part after the piano solo where Chet, aster we have failed in following him in setting up a drum chase, sails off into a second four-chorus solo, building up tremendous momentum in the fourth chorus.
“Polka Dots” fades-in in the first bar due to the tape machine having been started late. Chet play a total of two and a half choruses with a half chorus of piano inserted. I love the way he hits some of those strong, vibrant tones. The second chorus makes me think of Clifford Brown. Because the tape ran out there is an audible splice after the piano
solo – what was originally a full piano chorus and a half chorus of bass becomes just a
half chorus of piano before Chet takes it out. We took away the first 16 bars of “Beatrice” because of technical deficiencies in the tape – the difference isn’t all that great, however, since the first and second 16 of the turn are identical. Chet is mellower on this one, as for myself, I wish I had played a couple of block choruses less. Those who still claim that “European rhythm sections don’t swing” should listen to Terje and Ole Jacob on this.
“Gnid” is a beautiful Tadd Dameron tune. There is no melody on the bridge, and in Vadso I tried to put in some Dameronish chording which worked well, but here it didn’t work and I leave the idea after four bars. Chet is beautifully relaxed throughout and both on this and “Night Bird” one should appreciate Espen’s ability to list to what’s going on. Even if he had never heard or rehearsed any of the tunes he still sounds as if he’s playing a written part the way he fits in with the theme. But he isn’t. It’s just a matter of ears and taste.
“Night Bird” has one of the longest Chet Baker solos I’ve heard on record – more than seven minutes long and containing loads of detail and phrasing that are most decidedly not run of the mill, even for a musician of Chet’s caliber. They rhythm section is more active on this than on the other tracks, but Chet stays his own man. I like some of the stop-and-go that we do in the trio section, again a tribute to Bjorn and Espen’s ears.
Okay, if you are a member of the hi-fi asylum you will find that this recording leaves a bit to be desired. The frequency curve is less than ideal and the sound is a bit “dry.” The latter could have been solved in part by adding some reverberation in the remix but doing that to live club tapes sounds a bit silly to me. Also, in a two tract situation you either have to add some reverb to the whole band or to nobody at all and then the solution is the better one.
If you accept these slight deficiencies, however, I think you will discover that the balance between the instruments is very good throughout, you’re losing very little that way. What we have done in the remix is basically to do some corrections in the frequency curve to get as close to the original live sound as possible. The recording was done with a pair of stero mikes placed on stage, thereby reducing audience noise as well as getting as much of the natural sound of the instruments as possible.
(Per Husby [b. 1949] divides his work between pianistic duties and work as an arranger/ composer and has toured extensively with Pepper Adams and Kenny Wheeler. He is much used as an accompanist to singers, and works permanently in singer Laila Dalseth’s group. Recent engagements have also included work with Kim Parker and Georgie Fame. Per is also a regular reviewer for Cadence Jazz Magazine, Cadence Building, Redwood, NY 13679. 315-287-2852. Cadence Jazz Magazine, offering the world’s most complete coverage of the Jazz recording scene, is interested in the art of improvised music.)
In June 1989 an interview with Per Husby was printed in Vol 15, No 6 of Cadence Magazine, Ltd. In that interview he talked some about Chet Baker and Cadence has kindly given us permission to print that part of the interview.
CAD: Who do you think are the natural musicians today?
Per: Well that’s where I have problems, see because I can’t see that too many of the young jazz musicians, as they call them, are natural musicians. That’s why I don’t see too much interest in young jazz musicians. Now that sounds horrible and I don’t like to say it but I think this whole business of playing jazz is in a critical state because we have not gotten rid of this thing of teaching yourself scale solutions, that everything is just like something you learn, a craft that you learn. It’s, well, use soul. I know very few musicians that have this sort of soul or that have this sort of vulnerability that – for instance Chet Baker has.
CAD: I watched a video tape of Chet Baker at Ronnie Scott’s and it was kind of sad. His playing – if it weren’t Chet Baker, no one would have gotten away with it. He was on a real off night. You toured with him. Were there nights when he just really could not play particularly well?
Per: No. It was not a long tour, but it was like, 4, 5 or 6 gigs, whatever. I’ll stick my head out to say that I think that Chet Baker would play well if I played with him. I think Chet is so dependent on the mood in the band, on – I think Chet Baker is ultimately human.
CAD: How does he survive?
Per: I don’t know. It’s funny because I asked him once, “Can I have your address, your home address?” Because I was thinking about sending him a Christmas card or something, and he said, “What do ya mean?” He’s the only person I know who thinks that kind of question is unnatural. I said, “Well, where do you have your furniture, your winter clothes when it…” He says, “I have none. I don’t live anywhere.” He gave me his parents’ address in Oklahoma. He actually doesn’t live anywhere. He travels around, he has a couple of friends, one friend in Belgium, I think, and various places where he can always live. I don’t know how, I haven’t spoken to him for 2 years and I’ve tried to get hold of him and it was impossible because nobody knew where he was. But he just travels around and, as I said, he doesn’t live anywhere.
CAD: Now you worked with him in ’84, ’85?
Per: “84, ’85, yeah, something like that.
CAD: Was he on Methadone then?
Per: Yeah. We talked about that. He told me about it because he did a tour with Getz just before that which came out on the Line For Lyons. Now this is Chet’s version and I believe it. He said that it was impossible to work with Getz because Getz discovered that people came to see Chet and Getz couldn’t take that. So at first it started out, they had Gil Goldstein as a piano player and there was something between Getz and Gil Goldstein. So then Gets started behaving awfully bad toward Gil Goldstein. You know he wouldn’t – between numbers he would go up and say, “Is there a piano player in the house that would like to sit in here?” That sort of thing. And Chet hated Getz for that, because he thought that was a rude way of treating a good piano player. And then Getz started accusing Chet of selling dope and Chet said to me that, “All I’ve been through and all that, does he really think that I would start doing that to others?” So that ended up with Chet quitting the whole tour package after 10 or 15 gigs. And the rest was just Stan Getz quartet. And he thought it was just something Getz did to get rid of him and to get the seat for himself.
Well, when I met him in ’85, he arrived in total – you know, clothing that fit in the French Riviera instead of Northern Norway. I thought he would be a slob that you had to wake up and get there like I had to do with Dexter Gordon once, you know, always there one and a half hours after he should have started the gig – and he’s still in the shower. That sort of thing.
CAD: Is that a peculiarity more American musicians have?
Per: Oh yeah. Definitely so. There have been American bands that have this American disease about thinking that they’re gods, a gift to the world, or whatever so they ….when the gig starts they go to eat; most European musicians would never do that. If the train was late, okay, can’t do anything about that. We have to go on and play, we have to d the job. That sort of thing. Again, that’s something that’s come on the later years either with younger or with some of the older musicians that are trying to get to be super stars because all the others did. A little bit of that star thing. “I play when I feel like it.” Clark Terry would never do that , or any number of – James Moody – any of these guys would never do that. Anyway, I lost the question?
CAD: We were talking about Chet Baker.
Per: We watched “Dynasty” together, and he was sitting there listening and he said, “Oh, well that’s my next life.” He would write stories for “Dynasty.” He would be great for adding lines for “Dynasty.” He was creating all these, he was sitting there and giving me all those alternate lines that were really great. He said, “Oh, I can do that.” But when I met him, and I might idolize him but I think so many people put him down for being unreliable, whatever – and whenever I met him, he’s been very nice. You come down and Chet is already dressed up for leaving and we haven’t had breakfast. He was, I always got the impression of, is that the guy always ends up in a situation where, not
Really wanting to, like he thinks the gig is in Cologne and then he’s mixed up two cities. The gig was supposed to be somewhere in Belgium. Then all the Belgians hate him. And Chet is there lost in Cologne and everybody says, “Oh, Chet Baker is just strung out again.”
Well, we had this experience when I played with him in Club 7 in Oslo, where, I don’t know why it was, but I said that if I should do this gig, we can’t start until 9:30 because I had another gig. So they said fine and I come down there at 9:30 and Chet is up there playing piano and singing, with bass and drums. And it turns out that the gig started at 8:30. So the club owners were mad at me because the guy who I talked to hadn’t given them the message of time. And Chet was furious on my account because they were treating me like that. Because he assumed I was telling the truth and he says, “And everything was okay, people liked me singing and playing the piano.” So it’s a bit of being vulnerable, that he immediately thought that people weren’t satisfied with what he was doing. And I can understand that, he’s been through quite a lot of things in his life.
CAD: An amazing amount. I don’t think he has any life anymore except being a musician.
Per: Well, that’s his life and that’s – he lives with it. And I think that also there’s been too much of the thing where, “Oh, I know Chet Baker” – type of thing where he meets all these people that think he’s the greatest, that really just want to talk with him because they want to say to someone, “Oh, I talked to Chet the other day.” That sort of thing.
CAD: Well, there’s a lot of that in this business.
Per: And I remember, I took some pictures of him at the Getz concert, and then when he was playing in Oslo with another piano player, I came down and I had some copies of some of those, some that are on the cover of the Cadence album. Those pictures were good, and I gave them to him and Chet just says, “Did you make these for me?” He was totally thrilled by someone just doing that. And also the other side of the coin, once I said to Chet, “Maybe you want to come home to my house and we’ll just scramble some eggs and listen to some records,” ‘cause we were doing a gig. He said, “Oh yeah, that would be good because there’s always all of these people.” And then I did a theater gig, came to the hotel to sleep and there he’s sitting with three of the “Elsa Maxwells” (types) of the jazz world, male or female, in Norway. He says, “These people invited me to go to a restaurant and what could I say?” They were just hounding him. So he’d said to them that I had to come because we had a ‘date,’ whatever you call it. And we go down there and they are blabbering away for awhile, all this “Chet, Chet,” thing and then Chet got put off by that and we started talking, just a private conversation and two things happened. First they pick off the tab for everybody except me because they didn’t like, or accept me being there. Second, three days after this, there’s an interview with Chet Baker in one of the major Norwegian papers which is not the guy’s interview, it is Chet’s private with me which he’s been overhearing because that’s the only way he could hear Chet saying those things because there were personal things that he wouldn’t say in an interview. You know, that’s the sort of thing that probably happens to him all the time.
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