Remembering Stan Getz
He had the most exquisitely romantic sound anyone ever heard on the tenor saxophone — cool and restful like a summer’s breeze. In 1948, when the 21-year-old Stan Getz, a member of Woody Herman’s big band, recorded a brief solo on ”Early Autumn,” his sound became the talk of the jazz world, especially among white musicians. Until that time, the tenor had been dominated by black players, notably Coleman Hawkins and Lester Young. Getz, who was powerfully influenced by Young, had forged a new style, alternately lyrical and urgent.
Getz, who died June 6 after a long battle with cancer, never had much trouble with racial barriers. Jazz has always prized individuality, and Getz was immediately recognized as a master by musicians, critics, and a remarkably large and loyal public. He was also known as a difficult, often abrasive man, who could charm or con the hair off your head when he wanted to. He had difficulties with drugs and drink and spent several years struggling to beat his addictions in Scandinavia during the ’50s, the same period in which he recorded such classics as At Storyville (Roulette/Capitol, 1951) and Verve’s Diz and Getz (’53), Stan Getz Plays (’54), and Stan Getz and the Oscar Peterson Trio and Stan Getz and J.J. Johnson at the Opera House (both ’57). On his return, he turned the music world upside down with his popularization of the bossa nova; ”Desafinado” and especially ”The Girl From Ipanema” featuring vocalist Astrid Gilberto (both available on The Girl From Ipanema: The Bossa Nova Years, ’62-’64, available as a four-CD set) were huge hits. Other Getz milestones were: Focus (Verve, ’61), Sweet Rain (Verve, ’67), Pure Getz (Concord Jazz, ’82), and last year’s Anniversary and its sequel, Serenity (both EmArcy). His final recordings, made in March, were albums with pianist Kenny Barron and singer Abbey Lincoln. Getz never failed to get grateful applause at Carnegie Hall when he asked that all the microphones be turned off — he didn’t need amplification to get that gorgeous sound across to an audience.