Editor’s Note: Our recurring “Portrait of the Artist” playlist series pays homage to the artists responsible for the most inspired and indispensable discographies of all time. We hope you enjoy these tributes, and stay tuned for many more to come.
One week ahead of the highly anticipated April 1st release of Don Cheadle’s Miles Davis biopic Miles Ahead, another jazz luminary’s story is set to hit the big screen. Directed by Robert Budreau and starring Ethan Hawke, Born to Be Blue explores the life, love, and legacy of iconic trumpeter/vocalist Chet Baker, through the lens of historical fiction. “He wasn’t a revolutionary the way that they were, musically,” Hawke recently admitted to Billboard, when asked about Baker’s influence relative to other recent film subjects Davis and Jimi Hendrix (2014’s Jimi: All Is By My Side). “Chet wasn’t on that level, but that doesn’t mean there isn’t something really beautiful and valuable about his art. And he was cool – the definition of cool.” Born to Be Blue debuted at the Toronto International Film Festival last September and arrives in theaters via limited release in select cities this Friday, March 25th.
As the film, and Hawke’s performance in particular, reinforce, Baker’s story is indeed an intriguingly multi-faceted one, defined by epic highs across his early musical career and tragic, heroin-riddled lows during most of his adult life until his death in 1988 at the age of 58. During the early 1950s, the precociously gifted Baker cut his jazz chops while supporting legendary band leaders such as Charlie Parker, Stan Getz, and Gerry Mulligan. He subsequently formed his own band, the Chet Baker quartet, and quickly became a revered ambassador of the West Coast school of cool jazz, garnering widespread acclaim on the strength of his classic recording sessions and in-demand live performances across the U.S. and Europe.
To celebrate Baker’s prolific musical repertoire, we’ve compiled a special 55-track, 5-hour tribute playlist comprised of his more recognizable studio and live fare juxtaposed with an array of overlooked gems. Also included is Baker’s crossover contribution to Elvis Costello’s 1983 single “Shipbuilding” from the English singer-songwriter’s Punch the Clock LP.