Due to the loss of his teeth in a fight and health difficulties from heroin addiction, Chet Baker's later career recordings are often rough rehashings of his earlier successes. Many of the trumpeter/vocalist's posthumous releases merely restate his unique gift for lyricism and, as such, probably don't garner him any new fans. Not so here. Of the myriad recordings printed after his death, few color Baker's career as vividly and deeply as Why Shouldn't You Cry. Detailing a musical relationship with vibraphonist Wolfgang Lackerschmid between 1978 and 1988, the album is a haunting, ambient collection of original compositions by Lackerschmid -- barring an arresting version of Baker's signature standard "You Don't Know What Love Is." Originally envisioned as a duet project, this collection includes performances and songs by guitarist Larry Coryell and bassist Buster Williams with accompaniment by guitarist Nicola Stilo and drummer Tony Williams. The spare group setting and unusual combination of trumpet and vibes allows Baker to free up his often conservative playing. Lackerschmid, no stranger to the atonal mayhem of free jazz, plays with a soft, deft harmonic touch. Together, the duo creates vast clouds of harmony. This is particularly true on the ballad "Five Years Ago," where Lackerschmid utilizes ghostly volume swells to backlight Baker's pointillist trumpet lines. Another standout track is "Chet's Ballad," a vocal version of "Why Shouldn't You Cry" recorded after the artist's death with vocalist Lillias White featuring Baker's old cool jazz buddy alto saxophonist Lee Konitz A fitting tribute on an album that truly showcases Baker's sanguine musical genius.
AllMusic Review by Matt Collar