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“I thought you might like to see the Footnote to the Spotlight review of the album in the 29 March 1962 issue of Downbeat. It's an interview of Eddie Sauter by Bill Coss, and sheds more light on Sauter's thoughts on his composition, which supplements your blog.
A Jazz Buddy in New Zealand”
Per the above message, what follows is self-explanatory and casts additional light on Stan Getz’s 1961 Verve LP Focus [V-8412] from the perspective of Eddie Sauter the composer of this extended piece.
It’s also a rare piece in that it allows the composer to share his thoughts about how he went about his business in constructing the vehicles that became a point-of-departure for the seven pieces that formed Focus.
This posting is also accompanied by more YouTube videos featuring selections from Focus.
Footnote to “Focus”
It seems impossible that anyone could be unaware of the importance of Eddie Sauter. Still, some simple research shows young listeners thinking of Sauter sorta like Finnegan, both involved with a band sometimes involved more with sound than fury. Few know Eddie Sauter as an important composer and arranger in the 1930s and ‘40s for Red Norvo, Benny Goodman, (Superman, Benny Rides Again), Artie Shaw, (The Maid With The Flaccid Air), Tommy Dorsey, Woody Herman and Ray McKinley.
But, early in 1960, Stan Getz asked Sauter to write something for him, “Anything you want,” said Getz.
Said Sauter recently, “the inspiration was the possibility of just being free. It was the first time anyone ever told me to do just what I wanted to do. It scared me. Especially because I was dealing again with a jazz musician. You have to remember that, even in the days when I was writing for jazz bands, I was always an also-ran. I think the closest I ever got was a second place in a poll.”
The result of Sauter’s writing and Getz’ playing is the Verve album “Focus”, reviewed above.
“All of the titles, you understand, came after the recording,” Sauter points out quickly. “I wasn’t really concerned with a particular style of writing at first, but with finding an overall idea. I knew I didn’t want to write a suite. I thought that was too pretentious. And I wasn’t out to write jazz. I guess I’m not a jazz writer. I haven’t been associated with it for years. If it turned out as jazz, it must be because our environment has been jazz-oriented.”
“So, anyway, I began thinking about how to use Stan. The thinking took the time, not the writing. Before I started writing, I conceived the compositions as seven different fairy tales- that’s what they are- are if Hans Christian Andersen were a musician. They’re not songs as much as they are short stories. I decided on that because Stan tells stories so well. He’s a musical poet.”
Once he had decided on that, a short-story approach, Sauter said he decided to write for the string section used on the recording in a manner similar to the way he would for a string quartet. Nor would there be a rhythm section (only one track had a drummer- Roy Haynes). I knew we could make our own rhythm.” Sauter said.
“When we went into rehearsal without Stan playing, I heard something besides the fairy-tale conception I had originally heard. Without Stan the music gave me an image of Greek columns standing alone, and Stan appeared as Pan, dancing among those columns.”
Sauter said the Pan dance worked out only because Getz is the musician he is. For the first of the six sessions necessary to complete the album, Sauter gave him only a rough lead sheet of what the orchestra would play, similar to that which a conductor would use. Sauter said Getz never had been faced with anything like that before.
“I had not written in a normal way for a soloist,” Sauter explained. “The pieces had enough continuity and strength to stand by themselves. I left a few holes for the soloist. I wanted Stan to use the orchestra and what it was playing.”
“He felt unsure about that and asked me to write out chords for him. I did and we played it, and it sounded awful. So, instead, he listened carefully to the strings rehearsing. Like all artists, Stan reacts to his surroundings. He has a fantastic musical memory. Well, let’s just say it worked. He listened, then he played over, around, in, and with them. “
“Everything can be better,” is the typical Sauter answer to a question about his feelings about Getz and Sauter with strings attached. But both men reflect pride in the finished product, exemplative of a stream without number - stream of consciousness and conscience, if you will - the river, really, of much return.”