A Look Inside Young Chet by William Claxton

Chet Baker has been a growing obsession since I’ve discovered him back in 2015. Being one of the youngest jazz musicians of his time, Baker had a turbulent life growing up with his father, trying to get by with jazz, surviving with almost no money, several love affairs and heroin addiction. He even got his front teeth kicked out on a fight which made him put jazz aside for some years. More exciting than his personal life-story, is his brilliant body of work and handsome face which made him known as the James Dean of jazz, referring both his facial features and rebellious attitude.

By collecting as many items as possible from Chet Baker, I’ve recently discover this marvelous book by William Claxton called Young Chet, a 110 page photography book that illustrates the first years of Chet. William Claxton is an extremely well-known photographer for his jazz musician pictures and famous actors like Steve McQueen. On this book, Claxton makes an homage to one of his first muses ever.

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The book is written by Willem Claxton himself and the photographer opens the book claiming that the photos were taken during the period of 1952 to 1957, a time where he admits it was the best period for Chet’s music and appearance. “He was still healthy, shining star, on the verge of becoming even bigger star”.

After that, the book is divided on several chapters where Claxton shares his memory about Chet, accompanied with incredible photographs. Christian Cajoulle, a well-known personality from the world photography, creates a beautiful preface beginning with the following statement:

“He was an angel. Or, to be more precise, he had the face of an angel – one of those unforgettable faces that strike one with their strange, magnetic attraction the moment one sees them, a magnetism that might be best called a presence; at the same time, that immediately evoke the suspicion that angels are often threatened by a fall”.

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William Claxton finishes his book with the following statement: “Chet Baker died May 13, 1988 in Amsterdam. He apparently fell out of his hotel room window. The police determined that his death was accidental. But I will always remember Chet as a young man with his horn, dreaming and looking towards his future.”

You can buy the book here.

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**All of the photos from this article were taken from the book “Young Chet” by William Claxton, released by Schirmer Art Books, for entertainment purposes only. All credits from the photographs belongs to Williem Claxton and his representatives, including Schirmer Art Books. Click here for more info.