The beautiful, melancholy Indian Summer of Chet Baker

For some reason, today I felt like listening (for the hundredth time?) to the ballad “Indian Summer” as performed by the tragically self-destructive jazz trumpet player (and vocalist) Chet Baker. I have been obsessed with this beautiful performance since the day I first heard it on the radio maybe fifteen years ago while driving. Eventually I got hold of a CD including the track. Thanks to YouTube, you can listen to the five-minute thing of beauty here:


Maybe “Indian Summer” came to mind today because at monthly recorder society practice, I was reflecting on my (canceled) hope to play jazz trumpet and felt a little sad. Who ever sounded as achingly beautiful on trumpet as Chet Baker? Yes, I love Louis Armstrong, Miles Davis, and many other greats of the trumpet, but it is always Chet Baker’s aesthetic that I identify with: the “cool”, lyrical emotional intensity. He expressed so much with drawn-out, smooth whispers and reflective silences and sighs: the lilting fragility of life, the beauty and desolation of passing through the transient stream that is Time.


Here is a haunting video of Chet Baker singing the heartbreaking “I’m a Fool to Want You” and playing his horn too (skip to around 0:40 for the music to begin):

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