So Stan Getz and Chet Baker weren’t the best of friends offstage. It’s what they accomplished onstage that is of greatest interest to Jazz historians and most other listeners. Apparently, they were able to set aside their personal differences long enough at least to make lovely music together, as they sometimes do on Quintessence,
a concert session recorded in Baerum, Norway, in 1983, and now released on disc by Concord. We must use the qualifier “sometimes,” as far too much of the session is impaired by Baker’s singing, of which it’s said Getz wasn’t overly fond, nor are we. It isn’t until the final chorus of track three, “Just Friends” (on which he sings and scats), that Baker’s trumpet appears, and then only to add counterpoint to the melody. The trumpet resurfaces on “Star Eyes,” on which Chet takes his first improvised choruses, and as no problems are evident, the choice to sing instead of play would seem unrelated to any troubles he may have been having with his l! ip. Whatever Getz may have thought of this, it was clearly an easy gig for him, as he could almost have phoned in his part, so little has he to do on most numbers. Besides “Just Friends,” Chet sings (well, sort of) on “I’m Old Fashioned,” “My Ideal” and “But Not for Me” (sounding most of the time like he has some food in his mouth that refuses to leave). He misses his entry at the end of that tune, and closes it on an improvised note that sounds completely out of place. Getz, who seldom played badly, is at best uninspired by this, and digs in only on the closing numbers, “Dizzy Atmosphere” and “Stablemates” (with Baker for unknown reasons waiving his solo turn on the latter). In terms of length and quality of improvisations, pianist McNeely is the hands–down winner, with Mraz and Lewis also making the most of their several opportunities. The audience seems enthusiastic; I guess you had to be there. On disc, the results are considerably less than persuasive.
Track listing: Intro announcement; I’m Old Fashioned; Just Friends; Star Eyes; My Ideal; But Not for Me; Dizzy Atmosphere; Stablemates (53:27).