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Chet Baker / Wolfgang Lackerschmid: Quintet Session

Chris May BY

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Chet Baker / Wolfgang Lackerschmid: Quintet Session
Quintet Session is the second of two albums the trumpeter Chet Baker recorded in Stuttgart, Germany with the vibraphonist Wolfgang Lackerschmid in 1979. It was originally released as Chet Baker / Wolfgang Lackerschmid (Sandra Music, 1980). The combination worked well on the first session, which produced the lovely Ballads For Two (Sandra Music, 1979), and almost as well on the second session, nine months later.

The fly in the ointment second time out was Baker's German tour manager, who had somehow become involved in the negotiations with Sandra Music and who successfully insisted on the use of a rhythm section. Baker and Lackerschmid had been intending to revisit their duo set-up, but were persuaded to go along with the quintet concept. Lackerschmid was a new face and lacked the clout to get his way. Baker was as effective a bandleader as the Orange Malevolence was an effective US President. He did not pay much attention to the context in which he recorded provided he got an off-the-books cash payment from the label upfront. He had more pressing priorities than group lineups.

It is, of course, a helluva rhythm section: Larry Coryell on guitar, Buster Williams on bass, Tony Williams on drums. But the band is not bigger than the sum of its parts. Coryell fits in well enough. He had seen Baker and Lackerschmid on tour some months earlier and, according to Matthew Ruddick in his (definitive) Baker biography, Funny Valentine: The Story Of Chet Baker (Melrose, 2012), was so knocked out that he came backstage after the gig and begged to be included on a record date. If Quintet Session had been a trio session with Coryell, the outcome would have been different. The two Williams, however, were wholly unfamiliar with the set up and arrived in Stuttgart with only enough time for a two hour rehearsal before the session. Both play well, but their inappropriately heavy approach to the material is frequently at odds with that of Baker, Lackerschmid and Coryell, who tend to float over it and are held down rather than elevated by the bass and drums (something made worse on the actual recording by the prominence Tony Williams gets in the mix).

Cultural differences did not help either. In his liner notes, Lackerschmid relates that, after his solo on his original, "Balzwaltz," Tony Williams turned to him and said, "Man, that was a really bad solo." Deflated, Lackerschmid asked for a second take. What Williams had meant, of course, was "bad" as in "exceptionally good." Both takes are included on this reissue. Tony Williams' opener, "Mr. Biko," is a steaming tune but it was not well suited to Baker and Lackerschmid's approach. Along with "Balzwalz," the tunes that work best are Coryell's "The Latin One" and "Rue Gregoire Du Tour," and Jimmy Van Heusen's "Here's That Rainy Day" (on which Buster Williams plays a memorable solo). Despite the caveats, the reissue of Quintet Session is something Baker fans will welcome. Dot Time has also reissued Ballads For Two.

Track Listing

Mr. Biko; Balzwaltz; The Latin One; Rue Gregoire Du Tour; Here’s That Rainy Day; Toku Do; Rue Gregoire Du Tour (rehearsal); Balzwaltz (alternate take).

Personnel

Chet Baker: trumpet; Wolfgang Lackerschmid: vibraphone; Larry Coryell: guitar; Buster Williams: bass; Tony Williams: drums.

Album information

Title: Quintet Session | Year Released: 2020 | Record Label: Dot Time Records

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