Stan Getz and Chet Baker have been magical names in jazz since the 1950's. Considered two of the all-time greats even years after their deaths. Getz and Baker both had beautiful tones, melodic styles, subtle approaches and the ability to swing at any tempo. Their professional association was relatively brief they worked together during three different periods.
In 1952 when the famous Gerry Mulligan Quartet broke up, Getz played a few times with Baker and the remnants of the group; recordings of their collaboration have only been officially put out during the past few years. In 1958, Getz and Baker teamed up for a Verve album that was a mixed success (the trumpeter was having an ãoff dayä). And 25 years later in 1983, Baker joined the Stan Getz Quartet for a European tour that resulted in an LP for Sonet, which was recorded in Stockholm, Sweden, the day before the music released for the first time on Quintessence, Volume 1 (CCD-4807-2).
Although Getz and Baker would seem to have been a logical matchup (their styles are very complementary and they blend together quite well), their personalities constantly conflicted; they simply did not care for one another on a personal basis. While the tenorman was a very consistent performer (uninspired Stan Getz recordings are extremely difficult to find), his state of mind could be unpredictable and fiery. Baker on the other hand, could have a fairly stable personality, but his hectic lifestyle and occasionally erratic playing could be troublesome. Meetings between the two were extremely rare through the years. However, the music on Quintessence, Volume 1 shows a side that is both pleasing and surprisingly joyful.
Both Stan Getz and Chet Baker had a long list of musical accomplishments during their colorful lives. Getz was born Feb. 2, 1927 in Philadelphia. His professional career began when he was just 16, touring with Jack Teagarden's Orchestra in 1943. This was followed by brief periods with the big bands of Stan Kenton, Jimmy Dorsey and Benny Goodman during 1944-46. However, Getz became famous during his two years with Woody Herman's Second Herd (1947-49). He was one of the soloists (along with tenors Zoot Sims and Herbie Steward and baritonist Serge Chaloff) on the original version of "Four Brothers" and his beautiful tone was perfectly showcased on "Early Autumn."
Shortly after "Early Autumn" caught on, Getz went out on his own, putting together the first of many combos. He discovered pianist Horace Silver in Connecticut and used Silver's trio as his regular band for a year. The tenor's playing on "Moonlight In Vermont" for a session led by guitarist Johnny Smith added to his fame, as did his early 50's quintet that co-starred guitarist Jimmy Raney. Although originally influenced by Lester Young, Getz's tone by the mid-1950's was so instantly recognizable that it became a major influence itself and was dubbed "The Sound."
After spending much of 1958-60 in Europe, Stan Getz returned to the U.S. and recorded Focus, an adventurous album (and his personal favorite) that matched his tenor with strings arranged by Eddie Sauter. In 1962 he teamed up with guitarist Charlie Byrd for Jazz Samba, a surprising hit record that launched the bossa-nova movement and introduced "Desafinado." After making several other bossa-nova albums, lightning struck twice as Getz joined with composer- pianist Antonio Carlos Jobim, guitarist-vocalist Joao Gilberto and singer Astrud Gilberto to record Getz/Gilberto, highlighted by "The Girl From Ipanema," the definitive bossa-nova recording.
At that point in time, Stan Getz could have rested on his laurels, but he continued forging ahead. He had a piano-less quartet with vibraphonist Gary Burton, recorded with both Bill Evans and Chick Corea (the latter was in his band for a period), explored fusion in the 1970's with keyboardist Andy Laverne and then in 1981 returned to straightahead jazz, signing with Concord Records. Up until his death in 1991 at the age of 64, Stan Getz still retained both his beautiful tone and his adventurous spirit.
Chet Baker's life had great heights and significant lows. He was born Dec. 23, 1929 in Yale, Oklahoma. After serving in the Army, Baker pretty much started out on top, gigging with Charlie Parker in Los Angeles in 1952 and then joining baritonist Gerry Mulligan's influential piano-less quartet. The inter-action between the two horns made "My Funny Valentine" a hit and led to the group for a time becoming one of the most popular in jazz. Baker's cool sound, which sometimes was a little similar to Miles Davis' but with its own personality, made him a star. After the band broke up, Baker led a quartet of his own that included pianist Russ Freeman, toured Europe in 1955 and seemed on his way to having a lucrative career, particularly when his haunting vocals began to gain him a large audience. Unfortunately Chet soon began having difficulties with drugs (he would be an addict throughout the remainder of his life) and by 1960 he was languishing in an Italian jail.
There would be some excellent recordings in spots during the 1960's, but Baker also spent periods completely away from music and he retired altogether during 1969-73. However against all odds, Chet Baker regained his trumpet chops and made a full comeback by the mid-1970's. He spent his last 15 years mostly leading a nomad's life in Europe with few possessions and his home being the road, playing and recording wherever he was in demand. Chet Baker's mysterious death on May 13, 1988 at the age of 58 (falling out of a second story window) has only added to his mystique.
On Feb. 19, 1983, Stan Getz, his quartet (with pianist Jim McNeely, bassist George Mraz and drummer Victor Lewis) and Chet Baker collaborated for a performance in Baerum, Norway that was fortunately broadcast live by the Norwegian Broadcasting Corporation and saved for posterity. Getz's beautiful playing at the beginning of "I'm Old Fashioned" shows that "The Sound" was definitely still in his prime and Baker's vocal is one of his best from the period. Other highlights from the seven-song program (all of which are modern jazz classics) include Chet's scat-singing on "Just Friends," the interplay between the horns on a lengthy instrumental version of "Star Eyes," Jim McNeely's sensitive playing on "My Ideal" and a swinging statement by Getz on "But Not For Me."
Suffice it to say that the matchup of Stan Getz and Chet Baker on Quintessence, Volume 1 is as magical as one would hope; highly enjoyable music from two of the masters.