Funny Valentine is the definitive biography of the legendary jazz trumpet player and singer, Chet Baker.
In the words of the singer, Chris Isaak, who appeared in a documentary about him, when a cowboy grows up in Oklahoma and ends up in Rome, he s got to have a story.
Chet's life story includes an early taste of fame; he was a protégé of Charlie Parker, and won the New Star award for the trumpet in the prestigious DownBeat Critics Poll in 1953. He struggled to cope with the pressures of success, however, and after an ill-fated tour of Europe he descended into drug addiction. His fall from grace included spells of incarceration and a severe beating, which eventually resulted in his being fitted with dentures. Against all the odds, he embarked on a comeback in the 1970s, and whilst his playing was somewhat erratic in his later years, he still managed to produce some of his finest recordings. Funny Valentine is an intimate and unflinching portrait of Chet Baker, drawing on almost two hundred exclusive interviews with close friends and musicians. It includes a detailed, illustrated discography, helping readers to navigate the extensive catalogue he left behind.
"Chet Baker has always been, and will continue to be a source of great fascination, drawing interest from many people even those who would not count themselves as Jazz fans. The intrigue more often than not is centered around the dark side of his life style and his demise. So it is refreshing to find someone who is obviously a fan of Chet the musician, who has written an account that concentrates far more on the music and the musicians he surrounded himself with. Matthew Ruddick has written a really great book and I would highly recommend it." -- Guy Barker, English jazz trumpet player and composer.
"With 'Funny Valentine', Matthew Ruddick fills a tremendous void in what has been written about Chet Baker's history. Twenty four years after Chet's departure, finally the light is shed on the essential and most beautiful qualities of this natural and fascinating artist. You'll discover here a fragile young man with an extraordinary musical gift, a free artist hard to tame, a musician of rare elegance, searching - and finding - until the very end, a devoted lover, a compassionate fellow, a sensitive human being - humane, terribly humane" -- Riccardo Del Fra, Italian jazz bass player and composer
"Matthew Ruddick's "Funny Valentine - The story of Chet Baker" is a beautifully written biography of one of the world's major jazz talents. Mr. Ruddick had promised that his work would focus heavily on Baker's music and the people with whom played it, and that promise has been fulfilled. Of course a complete telling of the story must also deal with Chet's extra-musical problems but this book keeps them in reasonable proportion to his musical accomplishments." Robert Freedman, composer and arranger
"Grippingly written and meticulously researched, Matthew Ruddick's 828-page opus is the definitive biography of trumpeter and singer Chet Baker. More than that, it is a vivid account of the junkie subculture that ran through mid-to-late 20th century jazz, as seen through the incident-packed life of one of its most spectacular participants. The book combines some of the best qualities of saxophonist Art Pepper's unflinching autobiography, Straight Life (Schirmer Books, 1979), and Ian Carr's scholarly musical biography Miles Davis (Quartet, 1982). It is a compelling and authoritative page-turner in the highest rank of jazz biographies. Baker, born in 1929, found fame early, in 1952, as a member of baritone saxophonist Gerry Mulligan's piano-less quartet. The affecting romanticism of Baker's trumpet playing was matched by his movie star good looks, and when, in 1954, his record company discovered he was also a proficient ballad singer, his future looked assured. But during the second half of the decade, Baker became a slave to heroin, effectively sabotaging his progress; other than during periods in jail, first in the US, later in Europe, he continued to use heroin and its various substitutes until his death in 1988, when he fell out of an Amsterdam hotel window. From 1959, Baker spent much of his time living in or making extended tours of Europe, and his mid-1970s US 'comeback' was shortlived. But he could still, intermittently, turn the magic on: the 1987 album Chet Baker in Tokyo (Evidence) which was recorded on methadone rather than heroin to avoid falling foul of Japan's strict drug laws is amongst the best he ever recorded. Ten years in the making, Funny Valentine: The Story of Chet Baker is informed by close on 200 interviews Ruddick conducted with Baker's surviving fellow musicians, partners, friends and associates. It also draws on Baker's As Though I Had Wings: The Lost Memoir (St Martins Press, 1997) and the previously published biographies Chet Baker: His Life and Music (Berkeley Hill, 2000), by Jeroen de Valk, and Deep in a Dream (Vintage, 2003), by James Gavin. Interviews with or articles about Baker in newspapers and jazz magazines are also quoted. All sources are noted. There are some great (and little seen) photos, and the book includes an 81-page discography with album commentaries. The success of a jazz biography can be measured by the degree to which it leads the reader to revisit the subject's recordings and, perhaps, hear some of them in a new light. In that, and in the way Ruddick deals with Baker's lifestyle, without either romanticizing or sitting in judgment on it, or shying away from the damaged lives it left in its wake, Funny Valentine: The Story of Chet Baker is as good as it gets." -- Chris May, www.allaboutjazz.com
"'Funny Valentine - The Story of Chet Baker' by Matthew Ruddick is a well written and meticulously researched biography of the trumpeter and singer which focuses on his music rather than his youthful good looks and his drug addiction. It's highly recommended reading for any jazz fan." -- Robin Lynam, South China Morning Post