With his James Dean good looks and the right-place/right-time good luck to be on the scene for the '50s genesis of West Coast cool jazz, trumpeter/vocalist Chet Baker looked set to be a career star.
With his James Dean good looks and the right-place/right-time good luck to be on the scene for the '50s genesis of West Coast cool jazz, trumpeter/vocalist Chet Baker looked set to be a career star. It didn't work out that way, though, as Baker's drug problems destroyed his health and any semblance of a normal life. This DVD Video presents what purports to be the worn and weary artist's final public performance, in 1986 at Ronnie Scott's jazz club in London (prior to his grisly end—falling, or being pushed, out of an Amsterdam hotel window). In quartet settings of standards, Baker is joined by Van Morrison for an idiosyncratic, not-so-successful reading of "Send in the Clowns." A more sympathetic partner is Elvis Costello, who adds low-key, affecting vocals to "The Very Thought of You" and "You Don't Know What Love Is." Baker himself is surprisingly eloquent—tentative but touching, his trumpet tone as vulnerable as paper-thin glass. The live footage is intimately produced, and in a special touch, the film also features Costello interviewing Baker in segments between numbers (with the interviewee seeming oddly youthful behind his haunted death-mask of a face). The DVD's extras are few, including a weak discography (lacking dates or labels). But the excellent sound comes in standard stereo or 5.1 surround.—BB