Tuesday, April 22, 2014

The Cal Tjader - Stan Getz Sextet

© -Steven Cerra, copyright protected; all rights reserved.

“Getz’s session with Cal Tjader looks forward with some prescience to the bossa nova records that were to come. Certainly the coolly pleasant backings of Tjader's rhythm section make up a cordial meeting-ground for tenor and vibes to play lightly appealing solos,....”
- Richard Cook and Brian Morton, The Penguin Guide to Jazz on CD, 6th Ed.

Although the title of this feature is very formal, in reality, the Cal Tjader - Stan Getz quartet was never a working group.

It was a “one off” that came together to produce a February 1958 Fantasy LP with the same title as this piece [Fantasy F-3266/OJCCD-275-2].

In today’s terms, the sextet on The Cal Tjader-Stan Getz Sextet was a hybrid made up of two players from vibraphonist Cal Tjader’s regular working group at the time - pianist Vince Guaraldi and guitarist Eddie Duran - and two musicians from the quartet then on tour with tenor saxophonist Stan Getz - bassist Scott LaFaro and drummer Billy Higgins.

Ralph J. Gleason offers this background as to how the LP came about in his insert notes to the recording:

“WHEN STAN GETZ played the Black Hawk in San Francisco ..., the time was ripe for the recording of an album that had been under discussion for a long, long time.

Cal Tjader had been an admirer of Stan Getz ever since the latter first shot to national jazz fame as the tenor saxophone star of the Woody Herman band and Stan had heard Cal and played with him at various sessions since Cal first went out as a member of the Dave Brubeck Trio. However, recording Stan with the Tjader group wasn't easy. They never seemed to be in the same part of the country at the same time. It wasn't until Stan came to the Black Hawk to fulfill a short engagement, during a period when Cal was laying off prior to reforming his group, that it was possible to work it out.

Getz' group at the Black Hawk featured two young jazz players who were totally unknown then: bassist Scotty LaFaro and drummer Billy Higgins. But they gassed Tjader as they had gassed everyone who heard them in the club. And it was decided to use them on the date along with Vince Guaraldi, Tjader's regular pianist, and Eddie Duran, the wonderful young guitarist who has been growing in stature in recent years for his in-person appearances and his work on his Fantasy albums.

Most jazz record dates, as anyone who has ever attended one knows, begin late and are one long tortured attempt to get enough material done right to fit on one LP. Once in a long while a date will jell from note one. This was one of those dates.
A critic journeying across the Bay to San Francisco to catch what he thought would be the last two hours of the date almost missed the whole thing. The album was recorded in record time (no pun intended) with less than three hours work. No tune, except two, had more than one take and even then it was a tossup as to which to use. …

As Vince Guaraldi, the swarthy Borgia of the piano, put it when the date was over, ‘When you got it, you got it.’ And they have.”

This album has long remained one of my favorites for the reasons mentioned in this excerpt from Ted Gioia’s West Coast Jazz: Modern Jazz in California, 1945-1960: [paragraphing modified]

“Tjader suffered to some extent from the general lack of imagination that characterized much of Fantasy's jazz product in the late 19505. While other jazz producers of the day, such as Norman Granz or Orrin Keep-news, constantly strived for different formats, personnel, and concepts for their artists, Fantasy tended to churn out a steady stream of similar-sounding albums, usually featuring Tjader's working band.

One of the few exceptions to this rule, Tjader's collaboration with Stan Getz showed the benefits of mixing Cal with new blood from beyond the occasionally anemic Fantasy roster. In addition to Getz, the session featured Scott LaFaro, Billy Higgins, Vince Guaraldi, and Eddie Duran. The band drew on some of the permanent fixtures in the Tjader repertoire—Cal's waltz Lizanne, the blues Crow's Nest, and Guaraldi's Ginza Samba—with Getz leading the way with a charged tenor performance.”

This video is set to Vince Guaraldi’s Ginza Samba to give you a taste of what’s on offer in this wonderful recording.

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