Hot Best Seller

As Though I Had Wings: The Lost Memoir

Availability: Ready to download

The late jazz legend offers his memories of the jazz scene of the 1950s and his decline from drug use in the early 1960s.


Compare

The late jazz legend offers his memories of the jazz scene of the 1950s and his decline from drug use in the early 1960s.

30 review for As Though I Had Wings: The Lost Memoir

  1. 5 out of 5

    Michael

    3.5 stars, rounded up to 4. When Chet (first name terms seems appropriate somehow. I think Chet was that kind of guy) says, "probably less than 2 percent of the public can really hear. When I say hear, I mean follow a horn player through his ideas, and be able to understand those ideas in relation to the changes," I place myself in the more-than-98-percent category. I've got stacks of Chet's recordings and his music is some of my very favourite, but I'm not sure that I 'get' jazz. The things I li 3.5 stars, rounded up to 4. When Chet (first name terms seems appropriate somehow. I think Chet was that kind of guy) says, "probably less than 2 percent of the public can really hear. When I say hear, I mean follow a horn player through his ideas, and be able to understand those ideas in relation to the changes," I place myself in the more-than-98-percent category. I've got stacks of Chet's recordings and his music is some of my very favourite, but I'm not sure that I 'get' jazz. The things I like, I really enjoy listening to, but I can't say that I know what the musicians are doing, what's in their heads or hearts while they're playing, or what message they're trying to send me. I love Chet's stuff, and really like his contemporaries, Gerry Mulligan, Paul Desmond and Dave Brubeck from the'50s and '60s 'Cool Jazz' West Coast scene, but "legends" like Charlie Parker and John Coltrane leave me cold, though Alice Coltrane is stratospherically amazing in my estimation. Is my tepid response to these 'giants' just a matter of musical taste, or a lack of comprehension and feeling for the music? I'm not yet sure. Maybe my feeling for Chet and Cool Jazz is a visceral thing that resists cognitive examination and I should just let it be. Reading this book of Chet's diary entries/memoir hasn't really got me any further on. They pick up with the 16 year old Chet joining the army, then meander back and forth between his early childhood (briefly), then the late '40s, '50s and early '60s, with the barest of threads connecting each chapter. There are a couple of running motifs, of course, those being music and drugs. The entries end abruptly, as if Chet put his journal down and decided he'd had enough of that project, or probably just more concerned with the need to score some 'stuff'. While in some respects this is thin fare - the interesting passages cut with lists of largely unknown musicians and itineraries of place names - in others it is strong stuff where Chet tells us things we'd otherwise have no knowledge of. Is it all true? Is Chet, so often zonked or strung out, a reliable narrator? Does it matter, if this is his truth? I'm left wanting more, but this is as much as Chet wanted to give or, maybe, could give, so I just have to be satisfied with what he's supplied. More importantly, he left his music. I'm sure there's more of him in there for me to find if I can just open myself to it.

  2. 5 out of 5

    Max Renn

    this slender volume is a bit of an oddity... referred to interchangeably as a memoir and as a diary, it seems to sit somewhere in between, a diary that was notes towards a memoir perhaps, as it is always looking backwards and never quotidian. the writing is spare and unadorned giving the impression that this is exactly how baker would speak to you if you'd asked him in conversation to recount his life. this sketchy unfinished feel serves the book well, allowing baker to tell his story directly a this slender volume is a bit of an oddity... referred to interchangeably as a memoir and as a diary, it seems to sit somewhere in between, a diary that was notes towards a memoir perhaps, as it is always looking backwards and never quotidian. the writing is spare and unadorned giving the impression that this is exactly how baker would speak to you if you'd asked him in conversation to recount his life. this sketchy unfinished feel serves the book well, allowing baker to tell his story directly and convivially without destroying any of that chet baker mystique. readers wanting to delve voyueristically into the soul of a tortured genius will be disappointed, there is no overwrought self-reflection here, but those willing to pore over the figurative polaroids of an interesting and amiable stranger while listening to stories over a couple of drinks will be well contented.

  3. 4 out of 5

    Brendon Hertz

    Chet Baker’s music was beautiful; his life was pretty tragic and somewhat beautiful as well. From his own telling, it’s easy to see how he glorified his own drug use and thought, in many ways, it made for interesting material for this diary/memoir. To me, it shows the inhumanity of the worldwide system toward addicts and the poor understanding society had (and still has) of how to help addicts recover in a way that allows people to pursue their personal and professional lives in a healthy way, e Chet Baker’s music was beautiful; his life was pretty tragic and somewhat beautiful as well. From his own telling, it’s easy to see how he glorified his own drug use and thought, in many ways, it made for interesting material for this diary/memoir. To me, it shows the inhumanity of the worldwide system toward addicts and the poor understanding society had (and still has) of how to help addicts recover in a way that allows people to pursue their personal and professional lives in a healthy way, even the ones who have access to privilege and talents beyond most of us. Insightful read.

  4. 4 out of 5

    Simon Sweetman

    Something very sad about this guy - and we get as near to the heart of it as we ever will in this timid but revealing "lost" memoir. I've read this a few times over the years, was great to reconnect with it again, now so much more familiar with the music. Heartbreaking and hardly ever hopeful but still a must read, something profound in these deceptively simple sentences. Something very sad about this guy - and we get as near to the heart of it as we ever will in this timid but revealing "lost" memoir. I've read this a few times over the years, was great to reconnect with it again, now so much more familiar with the music. Heartbreaking and hardly ever hopeful but still a must read, something profound in these deceptively simple sentences.

  5. 5 out of 5

    Richard Jespers

    Published posthumously, this thin tome is not very well written, and we must respect that because the author probably didn't intend for the public to read it. Yet the memoir does give some insight into one of my favorite jazz musicians, the brilliant trumpeter and vocalist, Chet Baker. I probably love his vocals as much as I do his instrumental renditions because they are so raw and soulful. His phrasing is so intuitive, yet correct; he knows the song inside and out, owning every word. In spite o Published posthumously, this thin tome is not very well written, and we must respect that because the author probably didn't intend for the public to read it. Yet the memoir does give some insight into one of my favorite jazz musicians, the brilliant trumpeter and vocalist, Chet Baker. I probably love his vocals as much as I do his instrumental renditions because they are so raw and soulful. His phrasing is so intuitive, yet correct; he knows the song inside and out, owning every word. In spite of the flaw of not having much a narrative arc—the book is largely a confessional about his frank drug use in the 1950s and 1960s and ensuing prison time, as well as his prodigious sex life—his prose is engaging, fresh and does display some interesting quirks. Even though he uses a lot of slang from the period (cat as in cool cat, grass for marijuana), he manages to employ a few words that have held on (dude, gig). And yet because of his word choice and syntax, readers can tell he is a very intelligent man. At the same time, if he is so smart, why is he mesmerized by the life of a junkie? What demons propel him to escape from his life while trying to dive into it at the same time? What may be missing from this brief account of his life, written perhaps twenty-five years before his body finally gave out and he died at fifty-eight, is a certain sense of reflection. Why am I doing these things? What makes me shoot up, put everything on the line for a few minutes or hours of bliss? But what can we expect, perhaps, from one who so tellingly reveals to us his soul in every song he’s ever played or sung. When Chet is riffing on “The Touch of Your Lips,” he is reflecting; he’s giving us everything he has, and yet Baker seldom plays louder than a mezzo forte. A very controlled and clean sound. In Barcelona, in 1963, for a series of gigs, he ends with a tale about making contact with a doctor who procures drugs for him, as if the man is a prince: “He was a surgeon whose skill and facilities brought patients from all over the world. I was soon obtaining scripts from him, and it all began once again” (115). Up to this point, in his early thirties, Baker has already been in and out of rehab dozens of times, situated in some of the best institutions in the world. One can only speculate what the last two and a half decades of his life must be like. Yet when I view him in a 1983 documentary, his face sunken and body shriveled, he is nothing like the handsome self of his youth, and I believe my question has been answered. Pity.

  6. 5 out of 5

    gazoo

    A slow casual burn where life seems as fleeting as the flick of a cigarette. Did not really get any insight into his soul or attachment to his music just his immediate surroundings where jazz and hard drugs seemed synonymous.

  7. 5 out of 5

    shannon

    one thing i really liked is how someone vandalized the library's copy, correcting the spellings of all the names. one thing i really liked is how someone vandalized the library's copy, correcting the spellings of all the names.

  8. 5 out of 5

    David Glenn Dixon

    So quick and light, this thing virtually reads itself. Which isn't necessarily a good thing. There's a brief intro by Baker's last wife, Carol, that makes a suspiciously strong case for publishing the book and then there's a transcription of what doesn't even amount to Baker's diary, more like a few sketchy anecdotes for a biographer to fill in. When stories failed to come to mind, Baker scratched down a bland parade of countless clubs and bandmates. All told, his own writings amount to fewer th So quick and light, this thing virtually reads itself. Which isn't necessarily a good thing. There's a brief intro by Baker's last wife, Carol, that makes a suspiciously strong case for publishing the book and then there's a transcription of what doesn't even amount to Baker's diary, more like a few sketchy anecdotes for a biographer to fill in. When stories failed to come to mind, Baker scratched down a bland parade of countless clubs and bandmates. All told, his own writings amount to fewer than 80 lean pages. Bump those out with blanks and full-page chapter headers and blow-ups of Baker's handwriting that you can't really read because the sentences are cropped out on either side, add a two-page discography, and you wind up with 118 pages. Sloppily copyedited ones at that. By dying of a heroin overdose at age 24, pianist Dick Twardzik provides one of the few moments that land hard. I don't care what kind of speller Baker was, you owe the guy enough to look up his name. It ain't Twadzick. Likewise Colpix is presented as an album title not a label and The Most Important Jazz Album of 1964/65 as an uncapitalized phrase suggesting Baker's judgment of his own work—he hardly seems vain elsewhere—rather than an album title the label most likely forced on him. Baker's life was far from easy and hardly without incident. Leaving aside all his creative achievements and associations (something musicians almost never write up well, and something Baker refuses to address in any substantive manner), there's the requisite chronicle of drug abuse, police harassment, and hospital stays and prison stints. You expect quick bailouts and failed rehabs, but all these are merely unspooled, one into the next, related in outline but remaining undramatized. Wives, children, and girlfriends drift in and out of view to little emotional effect. The book ends as though his pen ran out of ink. The most moving thing that can be imagined about these writings is that they almost seem like an aide-mémoire. Baker would live two decades more. It wouldn't be a long life, but it was long for the way he was living it. Perhaps he wrote for himself, imagining a time when he would want to know what he'd done but would no longer be able to bring it to mind.

  9. 4 out of 5

    Robert S

    Speak with any jazz fan and eventually you'll get on the issue of the history for the genre from the storytellers themselves, the musicians. Jazz is arguably a genre that has experienced more tragedy and early loss than any other, except possibly the blues. Its a laundry list of greats who are done before their time due to drugs or other unfortunate circumstances. Chet Baker is one of those individuals who has created such beautiful works of art but also suffered a great deal due to his drug use a Speak with any jazz fan and eventually you'll get on the issue of the history for the genre from the storytellers themselves, the musicians. Jazz is arguably a genre that has experienced more tragedy and early loss than any other, except possibly the blues. Its a laundry list of greats who are done before their time due to drugs or other unfortunate circumstances. Chet Baker is one of those individuals who has created such beautiful works of art but also suffered a great deal due to his drug use and time spent in jail. There's no telling what more we could have heard from him as a man at the peak of his powers. As Though I Had Wings is an attempt to help fill that gap, and provide Baker the voice in this quick memoir that we will never unfortunately have otherwise. The verdict? It's okay. It definitely gives some insight into Baker and the jazz scene he experienced but there's something...missing. Like a jazz piece left half-written, it feels off reading the memoir knowing its only about 100 pages. Fans of Chet Baker or jazz may want to entertain themselves in an afternoon by reading this. I definitely recommend listening to the man's work (easily accessible on Spotify) either as a first-time or long time listener.

  10. 5 out of 5

    John Lyman

    Kind of in the vein of Hemmingway, a tiny book with lots of blank pages, somehow still pretty action packed. Nice to have a firsthand account from the man himself, a great complement to the CB biography I just read. Baker was a nut. As with so many, (all), he seems pretty nice and tame when encountered in the first person, what others said about him often told a different story.

  11. 5 out of 5

    John Vettese

    If you want to read about Chet Baker’s exploits orbiting his addictions from the mid 40s to mid 60s and learn relatively little about the music he made during that time, this is a quick and easy read.

  12. 4 out of 5

    Sandra

    For those, like me, who worship Chet Baker's sound, it is a huge disapointment, because it is not mainly focused on music. Instead, if you are curiouse about his day-to-day life, his experiences with drugs and running away from the police, you might enjoy it. For those, like me, who worship Chet Baker's sound, it is a huge disapointment, because it is not mainly focused on music. Instead, if you are curiouse about his day-to-day life, his experiences with drugs and running away from the police, you might enjoy it.

  13. 5 out of 5

    Milkman3367

    2 and a half stars.

  14. 5 out of 5

    Giovanni García-Fenech

    Some fragments from Chet Baker on how much he loved everyone and how much he loved heroin. Not as interesting as I'm making it sound. Some fragments from Chet Baker on how much he loved everyone and how much he loved heroin. Not as interesting as I'm making it sound.

  15. 4 out of 5

    Naz

    I really enjoyed this, and I wish he had written more

  16. 5 out of 5

    David James

    A life devoted to jazz and heroin. What could go wrong. Obviously the memoirs were far from complete when he died, but this offers a bit.

  17. 5 out of 5

    Donna-Jo Webster

    Quick read from the mind of one of the 20th century's most talented musicians. Quick read from the mind of one of the 20th century's most talented musicians.

  18. 5 out of 5

    Rob McMonigal

    A short memoir found after the jazz trumpeter's death, this is a pretty unflinching look at Baker's rather troubled life, though I'm not entirely sure he felt that way. After not doing well in high school after a move to California from Oklahoma, he ran to the army at 16. Playing in the army band he started on life in music, and soon is starting on other things as well--women, fast living, and drugs. Baker is brutally honest about his problems after leaving the army--twice. He's happy to have bee A short memoir found after the jazz trumpeter's death, this is a pretty unflinching look at Baker's rather troubled life, though I'm not entirely sure he felt that way. After not doing well in high school after a move to California from Oklahoma, he ran to the army at 16. Playing in the army band he started on life in music, and soon is starting on other things as well--women, fast living, and drugs. Baker is brutally honest about his problems after leaving the army--twice. He's happy to have been introduced to grass, and it seems that things were okay for awhile. Charlie Parker of all people tried hard to keep him clean. He has a few fond memories in here about Parker but it seems like he didn't learn the lessons Parker had to give. It's obvious he admired Parker's drug use, as revealed by a statement like this: "Bird was a flawless player, and although he was snorting up spoons of stuff and drinking fifths of Hennessy, it all seemed to have little or no effect on him." Parker's friends who watched him deteriorate probably would disagree. After they go their separate ways, Baker goes on to other bands, eventually leading his own. But the drugs don't ever stop, and even after fleeing drug charges in the United States, things don't seem to get any better. Alternating between cleaning up, getting gigs, and getting back into trouble, Baker does time in various places in Europe and not even the lax drug policy of late 50s England can't keep him from trouble. This missive is unintentionally tragic. It's hard to watch a person self-destruct like this, even if he did have another twenty years or so of life after the text ends. What's interesting is how matter of fact he is about everything. The gigs and the drug deals and the dodging the police are told the same way another person might talk about how they attended concerts or changed jobs. It's all very casual, the writing of a man looking back and realizing there's nothing he can do to alter his life--and from what I can tell, I'm not sure he would want to. My guess is this is written about the late 1970s, based on a comment about a Miles Davis album, so he's obviously aware of what he's done. Perhaps the most interesting is Baker's feelings on the police, whether in the US or elsewhere. It always seems to him as though they are out to get the drug users rather than the drug dealers. "The cops who busted me were complete dummies who loved to harass and bust musicians, actors, and celebrities of all kinds; people who were an easy bust, and who would get their names in the paper. They never arrested the pushers or anyone who might be really dangerous. It wasn't their style." "I hated those bastards and all they stood for.." would be as good an epitaph for Baker's feelings about drug cops. (Irony strikes again--as I'm writing this, there are all kinds of anti-drug commercials, proving that nothing has changed since Baker's day.) While short, this is really nice first hand account of part of the jazz scene. There's a lot of name dropping, but not quite enough about the music itself, despite what the blurbs say. Still, I'm not sure there's anything else quite like this out there, because it probably wasn't intended for public eyes. I give Carol Baker, the last wife he mentions, credit for sharing this with the world. (library, 03/08) Trebby's Take: A good book for those who love jazz.

  19. 4 out of 5

    a

    a skeletal, severely abbreviated fraction of autobiography. reading more like excerpted annotated outlines of a memoir, barely stretching just over a hundred pages padded with ample textless chapter divisions etc. worth it for the inimitable Chet Baker deadpan --near catatonic-- stoicism that somehow, in its seemingly para-human indifference and detachment, conveys such an elevated sensitivity, psychic fragility and diffuse air of melancholy and portent that only such impassivity could delicatel a skeletal, severely abbreviated fraction of autobiography. reading more like excerpted annotated outlines of a memoir, barely stretching just over a hundred pages padded with ample textless chapter divisions etc. worth it for the inimitable Chet Baker deadpan --near catatonic-- stoicism that somehow, in its seemingly para-human indifference and detachment, conveys such an elevated sensitivity, psychic fragility and diffuse air of melancholy and portent that only such impassivity could delicately enough transport. and also for vignettes such as these: [of his experience aboard a troopship bound for Germany after enlisting in the Army illegally at 16] There was vomit everywhere, you could not escape the smell of it no matter where you went on the ship. Since there wasn't anything alcoholic to drink, some of the guys mixed Aqua Velva with fruit juice. Everyone was getting loaded and fighting. Some went blind from the noxious aftershave mixture. Altogether, it was a trip I could not easily forget. I spent a couple of weeks at her apartment, but unfortunately some joker ripped off the door of her Corvette when I was using the car. He didn't even stop. We had a few words about that, and fought about some other things as well. It all ended in my telling her to get fucked. [of being brought to court on drug charges in England] I really couldn't take the whole thing seriously. All those seemingly pompous fools with their white wigs. Needless to say, I was found guilty by his lordship. despite its brevity, a satisfying, shimmering glimpse into one of my top 5 most compelling voices in all recorded music. for a longer look, a couple biographies are supposed to be good, but u prob cant do better than this. http://zhaep.tumblr.com/post/38938990586/a-skeletal-severely-abbreviated-fraction-of

  20. 5 out of 5

    Steve Lawson

    It seems that this is a posthumous publication of a lightly-edited version of Baker's notebooks or journals. I loved some of the little stories or character sketches, done with an economy of words. But the book avoids self-reflection, context, or explanation like the plague, so while it's possible to get an idea of what Baker's life was like as he went through bands, women, drugs, and countries, I don't know any more about why Chet did the things he did or how he felt about it all than I did bef It seems that this is a posthumous publication of a lightly-edited version of Baker's notebooks or journals. I loved some of the little stories or character sketches, done with an economy of words. But the book avoids self-reflection, context, or explanation like the plague, so while it's possible to get an idea of what Baker's life was like as he went through bands, women, drugs, and countries, I don't know any more about why Chet did the things he did or how he felt about it all than I did before I read the book. Still, it's enjoyable and short, and I read it, if not in one sitting, then in one brief evening.

  21. 5 out of 5

    Dani Arribas-bel

    Short book that reads even more quickly about the life of one of The trumpet players of jazz. More than interesting, it is very sad to realize how the account of his life looks more to that of a junkie than to a genius, even though he probably had as much from each. Personally, I really liked the first chapters in which he recalls almost with nostalgia his time before drugs, his first girl or his first visits to Europe as a soldier. Given the small time investment that requires, it is more than a Short book that reads even more quickly about the life of one of The trumpet players of jazz. More than interesting, it is very sad to realize how the account of his life looks more to that of a junkie than to a genius, even though he probably had as much from each. Personally, I really liked the first chapters in which he recalls almost with nostalgia his time before drugs, his first girl or his first visits to Europe as a soldier. Given the small time investment that requires, it is more than a recommended read.

  22. 5 out of 5

    Armando

    Several musicians had been wrote their memories, but this in particular give me the chills... In so many ways Chet made his music from his livin, like some others jazz musicians, yes, but Chet also had that particular style to tell us the livin with such a charm and almust innocent way. A big soul in a very handsome guy! A remarcable biography.

  23. 5 out of 5

    Patty

    On its own, this book doesn't really have much substance, but in conjunction with the biography by James Gavin, it illuminates a bit more about Baker. Mostly his lack of repentance about using and his failure to take responsibility for the trajectory of his life and career. When a guy counts six months at Rikers Island among his best life memories, well, that's not a life I'd wish for. On its own, this book doesn't really have much substance, but in conjunction with the biography by James Gavin, it illuminates a bit more about Baker. Mostly his lack of repentance about using and his failure to take responsibility for the trajectory of his life and career. When a guy counts six months at Rikers Island among his best life memories, well, that's not a life I'd wish for.

  24. 4 out of 5

    maile

    The writing was not good, but his story is interesting. Chet Baker was a heroin addict for twenty years and then fell or got pushed out of a window in Amsterdam in the 80s. This book is a quick read and if you like Chet Baker it's worth it. The writing was not good, but his story is interesting. Chet Baker was a heroin addict for twenty years and then fell or got pushed out of a window in Amsterdam in the 80s. This book is a quick read and if you like Chet Baker it's worth it.

  25. 5 out of 5

    Alexandra

    more Chet, from his own words...it is a really short read but good first person view. Although it is not totally honest about the shit that he pulled as a hustling addict musician, it is nice to hear his stories first hand.

  26. 5 out of 5

    David

    Chet was an eloquent guy when he wanted to be... as it goes on, the book devolves into frequent rants against the police who busted him (repeatedly) for possession, but such was Baker's life. Loved reading about his adventures on the cliffs of Palos Verdes with Charlie Parker! Chet was an eloquent guy when he wanted to be... as it goes on, the book devolves into frequent rants against the police who busted him (repeatedly) for possession, but such was Baker's life. Loved reading about his adventures on the cliffs of Palos Verdes with Charlie Parker!

  27. 4 out of 5

    Craig

    Not as perfectly played as one of his solos, Chet rambles on about this and that. There's a few interesting comments about the West Coast jazz scene and some of its members, but overall there's not much going on here. Not as perfectly played as one of his solos, Chet rambles on about this and that. There's a few interesting comments about the West Coast jazz scene and some of its members, but overall there's not much going on here.

  28. 4 out of 5

    Kevinjwoods

    One of those books where you can't quite tell if it is brilliant in its sparseness and the casual way he talks about drugs, or terrible in the way he just treats drug abuse as if it was the same as drinking coffee. One of those books where you can't quite tell if it is brilliant in its sparseness and the casual way he talks about drugs, or terrible in the way he just treats drug abuse as if it was the same as drinking coffee.

  29. 4 out of 5

    Jim Willse

    If you're looking for insight into Chet Baker's music or personality, this isn't it. There's not an ounce of introspection in it. I suppose the estate published it to ride the Cult of Chet, but it's nothing but a sad account of a junkie lifestyle, and a not very good one. If you're looking for insight into Chet Baker's music or personality, this isn't it. There's not an ounce of introspection in it. I suppose the estate published it to ride the Cult of Chet, but it's nothing but a sad account of a junkie lifestyle, and a not very good one.

  30. 5 out of 5

    Rachel

    While this memoir is very choppy and erratic, it's also a great "behind the scenes" kind of diary that Chet kept. While this memoir is very choppy and erratic, it's also a great "behind the scenes" kind of diary that Chet kept.

Add a review

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Loading...