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Deep in a Dream
"Gavin has done his research, seeking out those left alive in Baker's toxic wake. He has coaxed the grim stories from them, the tales of the wicked seductive angel not content to destroy only himself. Baker was out to bring everyone down. It would not surprise me if ? just to get through the labor ? Gavin needed an hour or so every night listening to something as cleansing, explosive, and hopeful as Louis Armstrong, Lee Morgan, or Clifford Brown, or anyone who knew how to pick up a trumpet and blow, as opposed to using the instrument to enlarge an exquisite, maudlin, and grisly sigh. No, I do not like Chet Baker, but I honor the patience, the method, and the fidelity of James Gavin's book. We will see how many people can get through it." David Thomson, The New Republic (read the entire New Republic review)
Synopses & Reviews
The wild ride of the most romanticized icon in jazz, thrillingly recounted in this first major biography.
From his emergence in the fifties — when an uncannily beautiful young man from Oklahoma appeared on the West Coast to become, virtually overnight, a giant of "cool" jazz — until his mysterious, violent death in 1988, the story of Chet Baker has all the trappings of an American myth. Now, drawing on hundreds of interviews and previously untapped sources, James Gavin gives us the first full account of this dark journey.
Starting with Baker's tormented youth — the pain that would haunt his entire life, barely concealed by an enigmatic, ultracool facade — the author recreates the birth of the uniquely lyrical, if erratic, trumpet playing and the fragile tenor voice that catapulted Baker to fame. His magnetic looks and anguished bearing entranced both sexes, but his only real romance, apart from music, was with drugs. And in mesmerizing detail, Gavin narrates the harrowing spiral of dependency down which Baker tumbled, dragging with him those who dared to get close.
Deep in a Dream is a revelation of a musician whose singular artistry and personal aura have never lost their power to fascinate and seduce us.
"Drawing upon a wealth of personal interviews, music journal reviews, national media, jazz criticism and a sound sociological sense of the period, Gavin has produced a stark, troubling portrait of both the artist and his times." Publishers Weekly
"Gavin does a cringingly fine job of detailing these personal travails, Baker's desperate womanizing, and his musical persona....Not just a pitiable waste of luminous talent, but a really scary story. Narrated by Gavin with gingery discernment." Kirkus Reviews
"It becomes clearly early on that the author has conceived an intense dislike for his subject. Instead of shedding light on the reasons for Baker's addiction, Mr. Gavin contents himself with compiling a humungously long inventory of his failings and betrayals. Only the most perfunctory suggestions are made that a suffocating mother and an abusive father contributed to his inability to deal with emotions." Michiko Kakutani, New York Times
Now, drawing on hundreds of interviews and previously untapped sources, the author gives a hair-raising account of the trumpeter's dark journey.
About the Author
James Gavin is the author of Intimate Nights: The Golden Age of New York Cabaret, a winner of ASCAP?s Deems Taylor Award. He is a frequent contributor to the New York Times and other publications. His liner notes for Ella Fitzgerald: The Legendary Decca Recordings, a CD boxed set, received a 1996 Grammy nomination. He lives in New York City.
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