Tim Draxl returns to the stage for a limited number of performances of the musical play FREEWAY - THE CHET BAKER JOURNEY at the Sydney Opera House today, 20 July and 21 & 22 July.
Devised and written by Bryce Hallett and Tim Draxl, the intimate show intersperses fragments of Chet Baker's prodigious career and self-destructive life amid his musical jewels - the "blue diamonds of jazz" - that spoke of destiny, heartache, despair and love.
In his late teens and early 20s, Baker looked like an angel and sang and played trumpet with astonishing assurance and ease. His music had the power to conjure beauty out of ruin while the fragility of his voice, at any tempo, was both heart-breaking and true. Chet Baker held a magical sway over people's souls.
From his emergence in the 1950s - when the good-looking young man from Oklahoma became an overnight sensation as a jazz trumpeter and singer on America's West Coast - until his drug-related death in Amsterdam in 1988, Chet Baker's life has become the stuff of legend. At once sexy and elusive, Baker was dubbed "the James Dean of Jazz" at the height of his success, his matinee idol looks and haunting sound seducing young and old alike in the conservative '50s.
FREEWAY - THE CHET BAKER JOURNEY is replete with poignant ballads and classic songs, including My Funny Valentine, My Buddy, Let's Get Lost, These Foolish Things, You Don't Know What Love Is, Look For the Silver Lining, Born to Be Blue, That Old Feeling and There Will Never Be Another You.
Ray Alldridge brings his special brand of magic to the show as musical director and pianist. He is joined by trumpeter Eamon Dilworth, drummer Dave Goodman and Dave Ellis on bass.
Tim Draxl, who recently featured in Stephan Elliott's romantic comedy All The Best Men, co-starring Olivia Newton-John and Xavier Samuel, feels he has a natural affinity with the Prince of Cool.
From the time the award-winning Australian singer/actor first heard Chet Baker's version of the Rodgers and Hart song, My Funny Valentine, he was hooked. "The haunting, melancholic tone of his voice in that song resonated with me at a time in my life when I was discovering myself not only as an artist but who I was as a person," Draxl saïd.
"When I started listening to Chet Baker I imagined him to be this idealistic '50s pin-up boy who was clean-cut and very together only to realise he was on heroin and deeply tormented . . . towards the end he was virtually shunned in his homeland and anything but the ideal posterboy."
Writer and journalist Bryce Hallett was equally intrigued by Baker's contradictions and the lyrical beauty and world-weariness that shines through his music. "When we set about creating FREEWAY, Tim and I purposefully chose not to dwell unnecessarily on Chet Baker's demons. Instead we wanted to reveal his power to enchant even when his life was at its craziest and spinning out of control. The show partly aims to draw audiences back to the romance and yearning of the '50s but there's no escaping the fact that Chet Baker was the ultimate paradox."
FREEWAY- THE CHET BAKER JOURNEY began life at the tiny jazz and music club El Rocco in Kings Cross in October 2010. More recently it has toured to Brisbane and was part of last year's annual Adelaide Cabaret Festival.