On the Friday 13th of May in 1988, the legendary musician Chet Baker died in Amsterdam in mysterious circumstances. He fell from a hotel window and drugs were found in his system. Whether it was an accidental overdose or a deliberate jump or even a murder… has never been established. What is recognized is that, along with Miles Davis, Chet Baker is remembered as one of the greatest trumpeters of the 20th century. Less known to the general public is that Chet Baker played a memorable concert in Valencia, just two months before his sudden death. He had lived hard since the 1950s and yet toured right to the very end of his life.
Promoter Julio Marti, who worked with Chet Baker for eight years regarding concerts, aimed for and got a full house in Valencia on March 9th (1988) at the resplendent ‘Teatro Principal’. Marti remembers that there were even members of the Valencian public sitting in the aisles …with a respectful silence in the theatre each time that Chet played his trumpet. The Chet Baker quartet at this concert consisted of Chet Baker on trumpet and vocals, Phillip Catherine on guitar, Marc Johnson on double-bass and special guest Toots Thielemans on harmonica.
In Valencia, there was as much of Chet’s “fallen angel” singing as there was Baker’s distinctive trumpet playing. The master of ‘cool jazz’, his understated music was an expression of his twilight world. Sometimes, ‘less’ really is more. Songs he played in Valencia included ‘My Funny Valentine’ ‘The Thrill is gone’ and ‘The Touch of your Lips.’ It is remembered by the promoter as “a very good concert in Valencia” with a “warm atmosphere and a spellbound public.” A local member of the audience also has good memories of the jazz icon at the show: “The first and last time I saw Chet was in Valencia, he was sitting on stage in a wooden folding chair, with jeans and cowboy boots and a natural elegance.”
Photographer Jordi Vicent recalls the shot he took of Chet in concert in Valencia with his Nikon: “I remember the moment perfectly…the legendary Toots Thielemans was playing a harmonica solo and Chet Baker was onstage beside him, with eyes closed and holding his trumpet and lost in the reverie of the music. It was in that very special and personal moment that I clicked the camera and got the definitive shot of Chet in Valencia at ‘Teatro Principal’. It was to be the last photo of Chet Baker in Spain.”
It has fairly recently come to light that this concert in Valencia may be released on record in the future. According to Julio Marti: “Chet Baker’s concert in Valencia was perfectly recorded. Now, it’s a question of negotiating with European jazz record labels to produce and release what was one of Chet’s final concerts.”
Report by ‘24/7 Valencia’ team
Article copyright 24/7 Valencia
Photo ‘Chet Baker in Valencia’ copyright Jordi Vicent
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