It's regrettable that Stan Getz and Chet Baker disliked one another personally, for they had so much in common musically. Both came out of jazz's Cool School, had delightful tones, favored subtlety and restraint, and both could be incredibly lyrical - no jazzman has played ballads more beautifully than Getz or Baker. Recorded live in Norway in 1983 but not released commercially until 2000, Quintessence, Vol. 2 offers a rare chance to hear them co-leading a quintet. One wishes that Getz and Baker (who are joined by pianist Jim McNeely, bassist George Mraz and drummer Victor Lewis) had been able to put their personal differences aside and play together more often, for the two are a highly appealing combination on standards that range from "It's You or No One" and "I'll Remember April" to Billy Strayhorn's "Blood Count," Gerry Mulligan's "Line for Lyons," and Sonny Rollins' "Airegin." Getz and Baker are both swinging, yet they swing in a consistently melodic fashion and remind us that while they had impressive chops, they didn't feel the need to beat listeners over the head with them. Like Getz, Baker used his instrument to tell meaningful stories instead of trying to dazzle you with his technique. This CD is rewarding as well as historically important. One can't help but wonder if it would have been even stronger if Getz and Baker had been able to get along outside of a musical setting.
- Alex Henderson (All Music Guide)
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It is my great pleasure to present volume two of "Quintessence," the classic recording of two jazz giants, Stan Getz and Chet Baker, from a concert performed in Norway in 1983. It would be the last known recording of the two of them together, hence it is a jazz treasure of considerable measure. Stan Getz and Chet Baker epitomized cool, vivid storytelling, wit, romance and charm - they were masters of the sacred art of "less is more" in the notes they played and that gorgeous sound in which they played them! My favorite track is "It's You Or No One." It is a perfect representation of why jazz music is so great - it swings, it's relaxed, it makes you feel good. I hear that "old Getz swagger," that loose as a goose feel, swaying back and forth, and hip! My father was a master of creating that zone in his solos-imitators never came close. As the years go by we appreciate him all the more, we realize he was, without question, one of a kind.
The rhythm section shines throughout - pianist Jim McNeely, George Mraz on bass and Victor Lewis on drums. My good friend Dr. Herb Wong, follows with his impressions of this music. I hope you enjoy the music! Steve Getz Both Stan Getz and Chet Baker gained passage into the jazz pantheon decades ago. Like all jazz icons, their respective sounds are immediately identifiable. Possessing everlasting gifts as sublime storytellers, they tell not just theirs, but yours and mine. Likewise they are creative painters of heavy emotional feelings and colors of our total environmental canvas. Cues for their perception include sound, sight, mood and intuition.
Their interplay and virtues as soloists have been recorded only sparingly: In 1953 at the Haig and 1954 at The Tiffany Club - both in Los Angeles, a 1958 studio session in Chicago and the Stockholm concert on February 18, 1983 - just a day before the two "Quintessence" volumes, including the CD at hand, were recorded in a suburb outside of Oslo, Norway. It documents Getz and Baker playing with irreducible lyricism and melodic imagination fueled and fired by the authoritative Getz rhythm section of Jim McNeely, George Mraz and Victor Lewis; all three had prior experiences with Baker, too-altogether stimulating generous, eventful interest.
In peak form, Getz luxuriant and personal sound and style has always been an irresistible magnet and consistently draws jubilant approval from listeners. There lies another mystique in the magnificent manner and sensitivity the other band members interact with him, paving the way for group play and personal expression plus an enchanting dynamic. Further add his elegant taste and unfailing attentive choice of notes in sculpting his solo improvisations. The result is a rare balancing act of outrageous surprises and exuberant expectation.
The superbly resourceful pianist McNeely spent four years with Getz; his observations and insights evoke high esteem for Getz1 great legacy: "One thing he really appreciated in a rhythm section was the ability to listen to each other and to him. His own playing was full of cues for the band to learn about and to follow... and that was the way he would shape a solo with the dynamics." And in building a shape, Getz emphasized "coming to a climax and not settling in on autopilot and blowing in a generic way." He believed in making the storytelling interesting. McNeely credits Getz for showing musicians how to develop a solo and to supply it with meaningful content.
On the Norwegian leg of the tour, the music on this disc opens with Conception - one of George Shearing's early bebop staples. Presumably the tune was suggested by Chet Baker via an inference from McNeely's clear recall:
"In 1978 I played with Chet for six months. He played Conception regularly." The jaunty selection was one among other very complicated tunes with different chromatic harmony. "Chet could just use his ear and weave stunning lines through tunes like that. He was an amazingly gifted guy," says McNeely.
Getz' two sensuous ballad features illustrate why he is, indeed, the consummate tenor saxophone balladeer, rewarding the listener with unmeasurable waves of enchanting, even erotic romanticism and inventive improvisations. McNeely, bassist Mraz and drummer Lewis share in the soulful delivery of We'll Be Together Again and Blood Count. Getz favored playing the latter - the elegiac Billy Strayhorn tune (his final composition written from his hospital bed.) McNeely had refined it after the tune was transcribed from a 1967 Duke Ellington LP ("...and his Mother called him Bill") by San Francisco Bay Area pianist Roberta Mandel. Sensing its ideal suitability for Getzian interpretation, McNeely brought it in to run down with Getz. "It was in the key specifically for Johnny Hodges' alto and I told Stan we could take it down to fit the tenor, but he wanted to keep it up in the alto key." The hauntingly beautiful Blood Count quickly became a Getz signature/sign-off tune.
There, is no disagreement with McNeely's contention that "Stan was the greatest 'singer' I've had the good fortune to work with. The way he played a line was the way a great singer would sing it." Getz spoke directly through his music caressed with poignant warmth and beauty. During the late 1980's, Getz lived just minutes from my residence in Menio Park; in 1987 he said to me (more than once) with utter conviction: "When I pick up my horn to play, I really, truly mean it!" Abundant support exists in and beyond soul-searching ballads. I Remember April, Airegin and especially It's You Or No One (a real deal winner!) are replete with sinew, spirit and idea - dense improvisation. Also evident are Baker's firm mindset and persuasive control.
Line For Lyons is Gerry Mulligan's familiar original, a classic named after the late Jimmy Lyons (San Francisco jazz deejay and the founder of the Monterey Jazz Festival.) Without the rhythm section the horn players ride contrapuntal waves with melodically inventive interplay all the way home as the evening closes with an admiring, appreciative audience.
We, too, are all invited to dig the rewarding quintessence of their creative eloquence.
- Dr. Herb Wong (Jazz Educators Journal)