It seems a bit silly to write during these uncertain days that something sounds like it comes from another time, but from the moment the needle drops on Ballads for Two—Dot Time Records’ new vinyl reissue of Wolfgang Lackerschmid and Chet Baker’s 1979 duets album—that observation can’t be ignored. Serenity permeates the record, a serenity born of internal logic that feels both welcome and foreign to a world dominated by fear, death, and the collapse of democratic norms and institutions as well as (potentially) the jazz ecosystem.
Vibraphonist Lackerschmid, just 22 at the time of recording, builds gleaming structures of icy glass with every hit of the mallets. Much like Gary Burton’s work on “Crystal Silence,” the moods he creates, especially on originals like “Why Shouldn’t You Cry,” are almost inhuman (or perhaps beyond human) in their beauty and design, terrifying in the silence that surrounds each note.
Baker, then 49 and at the outset of his comeback following years of drug addiction and incarceration, weaves in between these crystalline constructs with his new, breathier tone; the slightest hint of a wheeze adds needed warmth. Kenny Dorham’s “Blue Bossa,” the album’s leadoff track, lets Baker’s trumpet blow in like a breeze, a reassuring voice that contrasts nicely with the cool eeriness of the vibraphone.
Completists may mourn the exclusion of “Dessert,” the sole tune co-penned by Lackerschmid and Baker on the original release, but the otherworldly stillness Lackerschmid and Baker provide the mind, body, and soul in these times is worthy of a spin on your turntable.