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Stan Getz and Chet Baker: Quintessence, Volume II

Ed Kopp By

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Since each man despised the other, it 's surprising Stan Getz (tenor sax) and Chet Baker (trumpet) agreed to tour Europe together in early 1983. In fact, Baker abandoned the tour mid-way through, reportedly because Getz couldn't stand being around him and made no bones about it. Since there was nothing graceful about their relationship, it's amazing how uncommonly graceful their musical collaborations were that winter.

Quintessence Volume II is the last known recording of Getz with Baker. Recorded live in Norway, this second Quintessence set is a breezy but beautiful concert performance featuring Getz's fine rhythm section at the time: Jim McNeely (piano), George Mraz (bass), and Victor Lewis (drums). Unlike Quintessence Volume I, Baker doesn't sing on this album, a detail for which I am grateful. I never understood his appeal as a vocalist.

Getz's blowing here is typically urbane, painterly, and altogether exquisite. This is an elegant master at the top of his game. Though Baker was not in the same league at this point (drug abuse had already taken its toll), his complementary lines and solos are well executed. The music swings with a sophisticated nonchalance befitting the cool philosophy to which each horn man subscribed. The set consists mostly of standards, including "I'll Remember April," Billy Strayhorn's "Blood Count," and Sonny Rollins' "Airegin." Whatever animosity existed between Getz and Baker in real life, it wasn't evident on the stage. Their collaboration resulted in some easy-going jazz made accessible through Getz's refined agility and Baker's knack for understatement. The backing is also excellent, most notably by pianist McNeely.

The CD ends with a dignified duet version of Gerry Mulligan's "Line for Lyons," a fitting elegy to an ambiguous professional relationship. Five years later Baker would die from too much life on the edge, while Getz would only survive until 1991.


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