"People love to say Chet [Baker] couldn't read [music]; he could read. It's not a question of whether he couldn't read chords or anything like that. It's that he didn't care. He had one of the quickest connections between mind, hand and chops that I have ever encountered. He really played by ear, and he could play intricate progressions.
"At my best, I'm playing by ear. But I often am saddled with thinking chords, until I learn a tune. And I have to learn a tune some kind of way. And really, my connection between my ears and my hands is not that quick. Sure, when I've got a tune firmly under hand—which is different from having it firmly in mind—I'm playing by ear. It's taken me a long time to connect up. Chet would get a tune fast, and in any key. He had incredible facility. Remarkable. So it's obvious that at some point in his life, Chet Baker practiced a lot." [Photo: William Claxton]
—Gerry Mulligan, in Gene Lees' Arranging the Score: Portraits of the Great Arrangers