Saturday, August 31, 2019

Scott Hamilton With Strings

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

“... With strings” recordings can be tricky for Jazz musicians. Some of the Jazz greats - Charlie Parker, Clifford Brown and Chet Baker to name a few - have made the “With Strings” form almost immortal. Bird, Brownie and Chettie have pretty much set the bar very high for any other Jazz artist’s attempt at a “With Strings recording.

For the mere mortal who is your basic, everyday Jazz musician, playing with strings can be very intimidating, restrictive and down-right upsetting.

It seems that three things are almost prerequisite to a successful “with strings” recording: [1] the Jazz musician’s tone must be beautiful so as to blend in with the softer sound of strings, [2] the arrangements must be done by someone who knows how to voice for strings, especially how to make them sound fuller, [3] and the strings themselves must be trained to phrase in a looser, dotted eighth note style that is common to Jazz and not employ the stricter on-the-beat style of phrasing which is often heard in Classical music.

Tenor saxophonist Scott Hamilton has a tone on tenor saxophone that is so fulsome, bright and unfussy that the collection of Great American Songbook and Jazz standards which make-up his Scott Hamilton With Strings Arranged and Conducted by Alan Broadbent CD [Concord CCD 4538] is just the sort of material which allows him to show off his strengths: harmonic subtlety at slow tempos, delicate, almost seamless transitions between ideas, and an ability to invest a simple, familiar melody with maximum expression.

Alan Broadbent may be the best things for string arrangements since Robert Farnon, the recognized master of voicing for strings, came along. And the twenty violins, violas, and cello on the date phrase, accent and accompany in the Jazz-trained manner of the string sections that make up the Netherlands Concert Jazz Band, The Jazz Orchestra of the Concertgebouw and The Metropole Orchestra under the direction of Dutch Masters such as Henk Meutgeert, Rob Pronk, and Lex Jaspers.

Richard Cook and Brian Morton in their Penguin Guide to Jazz on CD 6th Ed., shared these observations about Scott:

“Born and raised in Providence, Rhode Island, Scott Hamilton has helped redefine mainstream jazz for two decades. To say that he plays like Ben Webster or Don Byas is to miss the point, for Hamilton has always been more resolutely contemporary than conservative.

He doesn't double on soprano, bass clarinet or flute. He probably doesn't know what multiphonics are. He has never been described as 'angular', and if he was ever 'influenced by Coltrane' it certainly never extended to his saxophone playing. And yet Scott Hamilton is the real thing, a tenor player of the old school who was born only after most of the old school were dead or drawing bus-passes. His wuffly delivery and clear-edged tone are definitive of mainstream jazz, and the affection in which Hamilton is held on both sides of the Atlantic is not hard to understand. And yet what he does is utterly original and un-slavish, not in thrall to anyone.

Concord boss, the late Carl Jefferson, remembers Hamilton turning up for his first session for the label, looking 'like a character in Scott Fitzgerald', with a fifth of gin tucked into his jacket, and playing, as it turned out, like a veteran of the first Jazz Age, a style which drew on Coleman Hawkins, Chu Berry, Lester Young, Don Byas and Zoot Sims, resolutely unfashionable in 1977 but completely authentic and unfeigned.”

And here are Peter Straub’s insightful insert notes to  Scott Hamilton With Strings Arranged and Conducted by Alan Broadbent CD [Concord CCD 4538].

“Two days before he made this recording, Scott Hamilton was sounding uncharacteristically anxious on the telephone - he was explaining various things he had to do, none of them any more stressful than picking up his laundry or deciding what kind of portable CD player he wanted to buy. "And then," he said, getting to the heart of the matter, "I have to go to Hollywood and face twenty strings." Said that way, it sounded more like an appointment with a firing squad than the fulfillment of a desire he'd had for years.

I guess it's axiomatic that virtually all great jazz musicians, especially horn players, yearn to make string albums. Ever since Charlie Parker's Just Friends magisterially redefined the notion of what sort of background suited a jazz soloist, string albums have appeared by Cannonball Adderley, Zoot Sims, Stan Getz (three times), Ben Webster (three times), Clifford Brown, Johnny Hodges, Warren Vache, Phil Woods, and Paul Desmond, among others. All of these are very good, and some of them are great. Scott wanted to make an album that would stand up to the best of these, and he wanted to do it the right way, by choosing some of his favorite ballads and playing them live in the studio with the string players, with no overdubs or laid-in tracks. When Carl Jefferson invited him to Hollywood for the fifth and sixth of October, 1992, Scott must have felt like a gifted and popular young RSC actor who learns that he's getting the lead in Hamlet.

There would have been an additional reason for pre-performance jitters. All jazz involves an intense degree of collaboration, but in albums with strings the soloist's collaborator is not his actual sidemen, the men and women staring at their music stands and wielding their bows, but the arranger. Scott had decided tastes in arrangers, and Carl Jefferson had paired him with someone he knew chiefly as a piano player. I don't think Scott knew what to expect when he walked into the studio and met Alan Broadbent in front of all those violinists. But I bet that two or three minutes into their first take, he was leaning backwards with his eyes closed, playing magnificently, both reassured and inspired by the amazing sounds coming from the orchestra. Scott is a very quick study, and it wouldn't have taken him any longer than a chorus or two to understand that Alan Broadbent had given him some of the most beautiful arrangements ever to appear on any soloist-with-strings recording.

When Scott got back to New York, I asked him how things had gone. Normally, Scott responds to dumb questions like this with a noncommittal evasion like "I suppose it was okay." This time, he was euphoric - he had loved the date. He was full of praise for the depth and originality of Alan Broadbent's arrangements, and it was clear that he was still hearing them in his head.

Now we can all hear what came to Scott Hamilton through his headphones, and listen to the way he responded to it. Throughout this recording, Scott Hamilton plays at the absolute top of his form. He says that the best thing on the album is Broadbent's arrangement of the verse to Young and Foolish, but I want to point out the eloquent authority with which he delivers the melody of every song here and the intensity of his soloing, especially on Goodbye Mr. Evans, The Look of Love, The Shining Sea, and Young and Foolish. He plays these melodies as freshly as if they'd never been played before, renewing their luxurious romanticism, tender regret, and sorrow by singing them with the flawless intelligence and grace of Nat Cole or Frank Sinatra; and then, as Broadbent's strings dart and hover, burnishing a chord before blissfully expanding it, touching the melody and swooping away from it, Scott Hamilton instinctively executes the essential miracle of jazz music by moving inside the song and cracking it open to let us know what it would say if it were given the power magically to recreate itself as passionately and expressively as possible.

Scott says that Alan Broadbent's writing gets even better the more he hears it, and anyone who buys this recording will discover that the same is true for his own part in it. Scott Hamilton With Strings represents a kind of perfection, and I can't imagine anyone ever making a better record of this kind.”

You can hear Scott with Alan Broadbent string arrangement of My Foolish Heart on the following video.

Friday, August 30, 2019

Ronnie Cuber with His Trio and Straight Street

© Copyright ® Steven Cerra, copyright protected; all rights reserved.

“Ronnie Cuber has appeared on more than 200 albums in a long and productive career that began back in 1959 with Marshall Brown’s Newport Youth band. In that time he has only made 20 as a leader which for those of us who feel him to be one of the greatest soloists to ever concentrate on the baritone saxophone is not nearly enough.”
- Gordon Jack writing in JazzJournal

The editorial staff at JazzProfiles continues its efforts at documenting the music of baritone saxophonist Ronnie Cuber - what’s it refers to as its CuberQuest - with a feature on his latest CD’s for Nils Winther’s SteepleChase Productions - Ronnie’s Trio [SCCD - 31848] and Straight Street [SCCD 31860]. Although the latter is a “live” recording, no locale is given and strangely, too, it was recorded in November 2010 but not issued until 2018.

As is always the case with Ronnie, he brings along a fine band on each of these discs, all the better to draw inspiration from one would think. Jazz musicians often “play off of one another” [i.e., feed each other ideas], so having other competent musicians becomes a source for more stimulating soloing.

But having creative musicians to blow with is only part of the process of making Jazz, another is selecting interesting compositions to blow on and Ronnie is a master at this as he always seems to put together the perfect combination of Jazz standards and choices from the Great American Songbook with a few originals thrown in occasionally for good measure.

Each of these CDs is 70+ minutes of exceptional performances by Ronnie and, in the case of the trio, with Jay Anderson on bass and Adam Nussbaum on drums and, and on the in-performance CD with George Colligan on piano, Cameron Brown on bass and Joe Farnsworth on drums.

Whatever the format, with each new recording Ronnie keeps getting better and better; his improvisations are so complete from every perspective that you just shake your head in amazement at the immensity of his talent and ability. He is truly a player for the ages.

Nils often relies on Neil Tesser to provide comments for the sleeve notes as he is an informed and knowledgeable observer of the music and its makers.

Such is the case here with Neil’s notes to Ronnie’s Trio [SCCD - 31848]:

“Ronnie Cuber has made a lot - a lot - of recordings. Perhaps 20 of them have appeared under his name; the hundreds of others form a panoramic array of genres and formats, sketching the history of American popular music in the second half of the 20th century.

He played in the 1960s big bands of Lionel Hampton and Maynard Ferguson, and in the explosive orchestras of Eddie Palmieri and Mario Bauza, where his embrace of Latin rhythms made him the first-call baritone man for dozens of Latin jazz dates to come. With George Benson in the mid-60s, he brought a unique heft to the organ combo by grabbing the role usually reserved for tenor sax, which propelled him toward rhythm-and-blues; before long he was touring and recording with Aretha Franklin and soul tenor sax giant King Curtis. His choc-a-bloc studio schedule placed him on sessions backing Frank Sinatra, Paul Simon, Curtis Mayfield, Steely Dan, Dr. John, and Eric Clapton. He has recorded with Horace Silver and Frank Zappa; he subbed on the Saturday Night Live Band; he even recorded disco, which at its mid-70s height had him "in the studio six or seven hours a day, and a minimum of three times a week" he once recounted.

But amidst all those sessions in all those contexts, Ronnie Cuber had never recorded in the stripped-down "power trio" configuration heard on this album.
Few baritonists have, actually: in the pantheon of jazz artists who have excelled on the big horn - a group that certainly includes Cuber - most have preferred a more traditional rhythm section that uses piano or guitar to fill in the harmonies.

Perhaps this has to do with the range of the horn, which at the bottom end has less contrast with the bass than you'd find in the other saxophones. Maybe it has something to do with the instrument's earlier reputation as a less-than-nimble, not-so-flexible beast -an image that first began to crumble in the hands of Serge Chaloff and Gerry Mulligan in the 40s, and which has been steadily pulverized by Pepper Adams, Cuber and his contemporary Nick Brignola, and by the host of mainstream players they influenced, a cohort epitomized by Gary Smulyan.

Whatever the reason, when it comes to such trios, tenor and alto saxophones rule; even among younger players, it's relatively rare to find a baritone saxist working with only bass and drums for accompaniment. (Keep in mind, however, that when you have Jay Anderson and Adam Nussbaum on hand, "only" becomes a relative term.)

The fact that Ronnie's Trio is his first album in this format doesn't mean that Cuber has ignored it during his long career. "Yeah, I've done it many times live" he says, "but mostly on gigs that weren't paying much"; with three instead of four on the bandstand, short bread can stretch a little further. Like all saxophonists of any ilk, Cuber took his cue from Sonny Rollins, whose famous 1958 album Way Out West introduced the pianoless trio to jazz: "I remember that great trio, and it made an opening for a lot of guys like me to play with just bass and drums, no piano or guitar." (Also keep in mind that when it comes to the baritone sax, there aren't "a lot of guys like" Ronnie Cuber.)

So when the time to record this date arrived, and without any particular keyboard player coming to mind, Steeplechase producer Nils Winther suggested the opportunity for Cuber's first trio disc. "And I said, Yeah - I don't see why not." Maybe the real question should have been - " What took so long?"

For material, Cuber turned to the jazz tradition, choosing classics from the Great American Song-book and jazz tunes that have become repertoire standards. He reached as far back as 1928 - when Lover Come Back To Me first appeared, followed within a couple years by Honeysuckle Rose and Body And Soul - on up to later and enduring jazz standards by Rollins and Horace Silver. 

One of those, the album-opening Silver's Serenade, could serve as a calling card for Cuber's style. The upper-register notes that mark the theme combine vulnerability and grit; taken together with the cavernous lower register he exploits soon into his solo, they illustrate the tonal majesty he commands throughout the instrument. Straightforward lyricism alternates with quick passages of muscular power before Anderson swings his way through a typically cogent bass solo; behind that, Nussbaum offers an unassuming clinic on the use of cymbals to both drive and accent the music.

In another vein, check out Jean-Marie, the one selection here that resists quantification as either a standard or a classic (although the trio's rendition might change that). The loping rhythm and the spacious harmonic structure, with comparatively less chord movement, places the song closer to the open-ended vehicles that John Coltrane favored in his great quartet. And that frees Cuber to worry less about "spelling out" the chords during his improvisation - which, along with Nussbaum's soulful drum solo, makes this an especially captivating track.

Throughout Ronnie's Trio, Cuber did make an adjustment or two, not for himself but for his audience. An improviser of his stature doesn't need to hear an accompanist stating chords or suggesting harmonies in order to construct a solo; as he explains, "When it comes to tunes that I record, I'm on top of that situation. But in a trio setting, I tend to 'spell out' the chords a little more. I'm hearing the chords in my head, but for the audience, there has to be some kind of clear path that I 'm taking, leading from one chord to the next." That's a succinct description of the process Sonny Rollins used when he first jettisoned piano. Like Rollins, Cuber uses tones that sit squarely within the song's written chords; he does this more than he would in other contexts, and it helps to guide the listener from one harmonic center to the next. And like Rollins - to whom he nods with a bright take on the latter's St. Thomas - Cuber can make that adjustment in a flash, because the harmonies of these songs have taken root deep in his consciousness.

"The playing has to be a little more sensible to the listener," he concludes. So I chose tunes that were not so complicated, and that didn't really need piano or guitar. I mean, listen to Just Squeeze Me." He sings the first few bars - which contain only three tones - with exaggerated emphasis. How simple is that?" he says with a laugh.

As simple as one, two, three.”
- Neil Tesser, February 2018

Straight Street [SCCD 31860] finds Neil sharing these observations about Ronnie and his music.

“"Live" albums are like Forrest Gump's famous box of chocolates: you never know exactly what you'll get.

On the one hand, artists and producers give up a great deal of control (aesthetic as well as technical) when they move from the studio setting into "the wild." Unless they judiciously cull the results, you can end up with something long-winded and forgettable - an album that leaves you wondering whether you "had to be there" in order to actually absorb what the disc did not.

On the flip side, though, jazz history teems with "live" recordings that capture not only a memorable performance but also a luminous intersection of artist and audience. On such albums, onstage adrenaline and offstage energy meet headlong, and the immediacy of improvisation contrasts with and highlights the setting in which it occurs. On albums such as those, you don't have to puzzle over whether being there would have helped. In effect, you're there already.
Guess which kind of "live" album this is.

Despite an extraordinary discography over the last 55 years - which includes participating in virtually every flavor of jazz, Latin music, pop, and rock, and on the days when he saw sunlight only while racing from one studio session to the next - Ronnie Cuber has always cut a powerful figure on club and concert stages. Albums recorded under his name at the Blue Note in New York, Jazzhus Montmartre in Copenhagen, and the Berlin Jazz Festival attest to that. And this one, recorded six weeks before Cuber's 69th birthday, should take its place alongside the best of those dates, with the burly-toned baritone saxophonist at the top of his game and an incendiary rhythm section to stoke the fire.

They blast off with Groovin' High, Dizzy Gillespie's ingenious contrafact of the long-forgotten 1920 standard Whispering. It's a bop-centric performance of an enduring bop classic. Cuber peppers his galvanic solo with melodic reprises and sparkling double-time stretches; then pianist George Colligan grabs the baton, packing pyrotechnics into a solo that climaxes in blistering doubled-octave lines halfway through his last chorus. Cameron Brown adds his own solo, deep-hued and melodically rich as he channels the boppers' best bassist, Ray Brown (no relation); finally, drummer Joe Farnsworth engages Cuber in a brief set of bop-spawned trades, culminating in a thoroughly modern re-creation of "the way it was."

Later in the set, Cuber sets an even faster pace in launching All The Things You Are. It may take you a moment to gauge the tempo, because he has camouflaged it in this spare arrangement, which first restricts the piano and drums to stop-time downbeats, and then dispenses with them entirely as his solo unfurls. Catch the allusion to Charlie Parker's big-band recording Repetition at about one minute in; Colligan raises the stakes 90 seconds later, interpolating a brief snippet of Sonny Rollins's Pent-Up House. The track closes with a particularly melodic drum solo from Farnsworth, in which he outlines the song's theme through a bracing combination of tonal color and percussive ingenuity.

While these two tracks fully embrace the bop aesthetic, Cuber's heart really lies in the post-bop period, as underscored by the next two tracks. On Miles' Mode, usually attributed to John Coltrane (but quite possibly composed by Eric Dolphy), the rhythm section sets upa rollickingenergy wave in the style of Coltrane's legendary, force-of-nature 1960s quartet. Colligan rides that wave and ratchets it up as he explores one harmonic byway after another; Cuber barrels through a solo that quotes Duke Ellington's Take The Coltrane at the top and touches on Trane's Impressions toward the end, finishing with a thrilling descent from the bari's altissimo range to the lustrous bottom notes.

Cuber introduces Gloria's Step, introduced in 1961 by the Bill Evans Trio (and written by that band's bassist, Scott LaFaro), as "one of my favorites"; his lovingly textured evocation of the melody bears that out, as does the emotional range of his solo. Even so, and befitting the song's provenance, it's Cameron Brown who truly defines this performance, as he propels the piano and saxophone solos with gorgeous backing lines that could easily be elevated to center stage. To hear what I mean, listen to the whole track once, then go back to focus on just the bass - and that's even before his solo spot, a paragon of refined lyricism.

With regard to the remaining tracks, you'll notice that Coltrane's muse hovered close on this particular gig. In addition to Miles Mode, he wrote two of the remaining compositions heard here, Spiral and Straight Street; and Cuber's take on the one time lullaby Summertime directly echoes the juggernaut arrangement Coltrane used on his transformative 1961 album My Favorite Things. All these tunes had appeared on Coltrane recordings that were released during Cuber's formative years, and you can scarcely imagine any young saxophonist at the time - especially one with Cuber's improvisational fire and fleet-fingered technique - would have failed to take notice.

Nonetheless, his invocation of Coltrane on this disc is something of an outlier, because Cuber plays the one horn that has remained largely untouched by the iconic saxophonist's influence. Coltrane started out on alto, launched his reputation on tenor, and then reclaimed the soprano saxophone in the half-dozen years before his death, and you can hear his innovations on a slew of subsequent practitioners of all those instruments. But the baritone? Not so much; of Cuber's contemporaneous baritonists, and those of the generation that followed, only the late HamietBluiett might qualify as a true stylistic descendant of Coltrane.

But still - the emphasis on Trane's repertoire at least prompts us to listen with new ears. And while you won't hear a clear throughline from Trane to Cuber, you will hear this: a baritone style informed by the complexity of line, the power of tone, and the sheer swagger that marked the first phase of Coltrane's career. Those attributes have long constituted Cuber's wheelhouse, and he puts them on full display in this disc - as "live"ly a recording as any in his well-documented career.”
- Neil Tesser, October 2018

Thursday, August 29, 2019

Getz at The Gate - Reviews in the Jazz Literature

© Copyright ® Steven Cerra, copyright protected; all rights reserved.

Although it is a word better suited to some aspects of his personal life than his playing, “aggressive” is not a term usually associated with tenor saxophonist Stan Getz’s style.

Lyrical, fluid, smooth, poignant, romantic and similar adjectives are the rule when describing Stan’s approach to the instrument.

And then, of course, there’s “The Sound” to describe his tone.

During the first decade and a half of his recording history, there are a few examples of a more boisterous and pugilistic Getz on certain “duels” with Lionel Hampton, Oscar Peterson and most notably with Dizzy Gillespie and Sonny Stitt on For Musicians Only all done for Norman Granz at Verve.

But the more usual descriptors associated with Stan are “the soft swing,” “the Moonlight in Vermont aura” with guitarist Johnny Smith, and “the light touch” albums he made with guitarist Jimmy Raney.

And also helping to keep things on the light side were the many bossa nova recordings of Jobim and Gilberto songs Stan made beginning in the early 1960s with their associated royalties that helped make him wealthy for the rest of his life.

As was pointed out in an earlier posting on his 1971 Dynasty LP which was released as a double CD in 1989 as Verve 839 117 -2 and on which he is joined by guitarist RenĂ© Thomas, Hammond B-3 organist Eddy Louiss and drummer Bernard Lubat, Stan’s playing could become very muscular, assertive and forceful, what I refer to this as his “Captain Marvel” style after the album by the same name that he made for Columbia. 

His “Captain Marvel” approach seems more pulsating and primitive than the polished and pure sound usually associated with his playing.

However, more of Getz’s “aggressive” or more muscular” style can be heard on the recently released Getz at the Gate: The Stan Getz Quartet Live at the Village Gate, Nov 26, 1961 [Verve B0029739-02] as is attested to and confirmed in the following reviews from the Jazz literature.

In ‘61, Getz at His “Most Aggressive” Downbeat September 2019 —Ken Micallef

“It's late in tall of 1961, and tenor saxophonist Stan Getz is playing The Village Gate in New York. It's before the bandleader would cultivate worldwide popularity and a streak of Grammy nominations for now iconic albums like Jazz Samba (1962) and Getz/Gilberto (1964), which contained one of the biggest crossover hits of all time, "The Girl From Ipanema."

His quartet is in exceptional form on Nov. 26, with the saxophonist blowing uncharacteristically aggressive solos. Cole Porter's "It's Alright With Me" opens the set, Getz forming shapely fire as drummer Roy Haynes counterpunch-es his every note. Two ballads follow, before Getz introduces Miles Davis' "So What"; oddly, what follows is a 12-minute take of John Coltrane's "Impressions."

Throughout two sets that night, Getz covered familiar ground, but also went for broke on "Woody 'N You," a sparkling "Yesterday's Gardenias," an ascending "It's You Or No One" and a cathartic version of "52nd Street Theme."

Recorded to quarter-inch tape by lighting designer Chip Monck, the performance was stored and forgotten. Producer Richard Seidel recently discovered the tapes and assembled Getz At the Gate: The Stan Getz Quartet Live At The Village Gate, Nov. 26, 1961, which comes as a double CD or triple LP through Verve/Ume.

"This is Stan at his most aggressive that I've ever heard him," said producer Ken Druker. “Things like 'Airegin,' he really goes for it. 'Yesterday's Gardenias' really jumped out at me. From 'It's Alright With Me,' you know you're in for a ride, because it sounds like a different Stan. He's just back from Europe. I think he's having a hard time finding bands to work with, if he's not alienating them or firing them."

Live At The Village Gate adds another dimension to the saxophonist's storied discography, but the discovery's a curious one. Why wasn't it issued soon after being captured to tape?

"It sounds like it was recorded to be issued," Druker said. "It's not a radio show. Announcer Chip Monck says at the top, 'We're here recording for Verve Records.' But this never appeared anywhere as a potential recording to release. I'm guessing it was recorded in 1961 and then jazz Samba hit soon after, and this recording was forgotten, because Getz went in a whole different direction."

Steve Kuhn, who plays piano on the recording and worked with Getz for four years, suggested an alternate possibility: "Stanley was always very critical of his own playing, so he probably didn't want it to be put out."

Hypercritical of himself and his musicians, Getz could be a tough taskmaster, his battles with substance abuse being well documented.

"My father was the kindest guy when he was sober," Nick Getz, the bandleader's son, wrote in an email. "He had a wicked sense of humor, and was so smart and fun to be around. However, the minute drugs and alcohol touched his lips, he became a violent monster. Sometimes, he would arrive late for concerts, profusely sweating and having bloody knuckles from who knows what. But as soon as he picked up that saxophone, the demons instantly vanished."

Despite all the baggage, though, Getz's gorgeous tone and sprawling discography remain his overwhelming legacy.

"He was very paranoid about Coltrane," Kuhn recalled. "Stanley felt that Coltrane was 'the guy' in the early 1960s, but that was unnecessary. Stanley had a beautiful sound. He called himself 'the Jewish Lester Young1 and Paul Desmond 'the Christian Stan Getz.' He telt he stood between the two. He had such a wonderful sound."
—Ken Micallef

Jazz Weekly, June 10, 2018, George W. Harris

“Can there ever be such a thing as “too much” previously released Stan Getz recordings? Would you turn away from finding a book of undiscovered movies of Rita Hayworth or Ava Gardner? Next Question!

There are few things in musical life as rewarding as listening to Stan Getz’s tenor sax. Up there with Rossini, Mozart, Ellington and Montgomery, he had a sound that simply affirms the joy of existence. Here, he’s in his post-swing era and West Coast Cool mode and pre-bossa nova popularity, teamed with the driving team of the sublime drummer Roy Haynes, richly textured pianist Steve Kuhn and deeply grooved bassist John Neves for a November 26 gig from start to finish that sums up all that is right with jazz.”
- George W. Harris, Jazz Weekly

The Second Disc Reviews June 18, 2019, Joe Marchese, 

“1962 is rightfully viewed as a breakthrough year for tenor saxophonist Stan Getz, the year in which he successfully brought the Brazilian bossa nova sound to the mainstream with guitarist Charlie Byrd on Jazz Samba.  1961, on the other hand, has receded as a kind of footnote in his musical history despite two strong albums: the orchestral jazz fusion Focus, with arranger Eddie Sauter (late of The Sauter-Finegan Orchestra and later an in-demand orchestrator of such Broadway musicals as 1776), and Recorded Fall 1961 with his old friend, valve trombonist Bob Brookmeyer.  Now, another vital part of his 1961 discography has emerged as a major historical find from Verve Records/UMe. The 2-CD Getz at the Gate preserves The Stan Getz Quartet live at New York’s Greenwich Village hotspot The Village Gate on November 26, 1961.  This never-before-released gig captures Getz, pianist Steve Kuhn, bassist John Neves, and drummer Roy Haynes on a winter’s night for a set that’s both hot and cool.

Stan Getz returned to the United States in January 1961 after three years in Europe, brimming with musical ingenuity.  As Bob Blumenthal’s fine liner notes describe, the sax man formed a quartet with Kuhn, bassist Scott LaFaro, and drummer Pete LaRoca.  Soon, at LaFaro’s urging, LaRoca was out and Getz’s longtime colleague Roy Haynes was in. This was the quartet that delighted audiences at Newport on July 3, 1961; three days later, Scott LaFaro was killed in a car accident at just 25 years of age.  Under two weeks later, Getz needed a rhythm section for a track on Focus and enlisted Haynes with John Neves in LaFaro’s seat.  Like Kuhn and Haynes, Neves hailed from Boston. He had worked separately with both Haynes and Kuhn, and his familiarity with their musical language allowed him to join the group seamlessly.  The three men joined Getz and Brookmeyer for Recorded Fall 1961 and then for live shows including the two sets from the fourth and final night of the Village Gate engagement heard here.

The program opens with Getz’s only known recording of Cole Porter’s “It’s Alright with Me,” and indeed, the music to come was more than all right.  His familiar, lyrical tone was on full display at the Village Gate, but balanced with a muscularity that might surprise those who consider him solely in the “cool jazz” vein.  He was clearly unafraid at the Gate to let the quartet pursue its collective boldest muse, with the rhythm section supporting him in a confident, often forceful manner. “It’s Alright” is driving bop from a group of masters.

Steve Kuhn had recently played with the quartet of John Coltrane, and the younger sax man’s cutting-edge style was on the rise.  Getz’s trio, sans their leader, paid tribute to Trane with an almost 12-minute run through “Impressions,” with Kuhn’s fleet piano out front.  Getz introduced the composition as “So What,” and indeed, that Miles Davis standard shares with it a chord sequence. (Both “So What” and “Impressions” were inspired by the melody of Morton Gould’s “Pavanne.”)

Gigi Bryce’s “Wildwood,” first recorded by Getz in 1951 with Haynes in the drum chair, got a deliciously breezy reading; like the breakneck take on Sonny Rollins’ “Airegin,” it had figured in the quartet’s final Newport show with Scott LaFaro.  The smoky, moody “When the Sun Comes Out” features Getz at his most languid. It was a part of his repertoire while in Europe, like Johnny Burke and Jimmy Van Heusen’s brightly swinging “Like Someone in Love” and Tommy Wolf and Fran Landesman’s off-Broadway show tune “Spring Can Really Hang You Up the Most.”  The latter sparked Getz’s most deeply felt sound of the evening. A sparkling “Blues” jam leaves no doubt of the group’s improvisatory acumen, while Alec Wilder and Arnold Sundgaard’s slow, delicate ballad “Where Do You Go?” may be the most richly atmospheric item here. Roy Haynes shines as he anchors “Stella by Starlight,” another melodic standard given an inventive spin with solos giving each musician room to stretch and breathe.  In fact, throughout, Getz most often functions like one-fourth of a democratic unit, a testament to the esteem in which he held his colleagues.

Getz at the Gate introduces the artist’s only known recordings of Dick Robertson’s sleek “Yesterday’s Gardenias,” a Glenn Miller staple imbued with verve by the group, particularly the virtuosic Kuhn on the keys and Neves on bass; and Thelonious Monk’s “52nd Street Theme,” with a lengthy drum spot from Haynes.  Getz would return in later years to Jule Styne and Sammy Cahn’s “It’s You or No One,” but the snappy, energetic performance here represents his first stab at the tune introduced in the film Romance on the High Seas. The encore “Jumpin’ with Symphony Sid,” a tribute to Getz’s influence Lester Young, is one of the two longest pieces here (along with “52nd Street Theme”) and showcases how well Getz absorbed Young’s relaxed brand of swing and made it his own.

The sound on Getz at the Gate as remastered by Seth Foster is full and vibrant, and successfully transports listeners back to that New York night in November, 1961.  Producers Richard Seidel, Zev Feldman, and Ken Druker have seen to it that the discs are packaged within a four-panel digipak that also contains a 16-page booklet.  [The set is also available as a 3-CD vinyl box.] Getz at the Gate is cool jazz with a twist, illustrating a more aggressive but still attractive style that Stan Getz could have pursued further had he not traveled those Brazilian avenues in 1962.  It’s a worthy addition to any classic jazz library.-
-Joe Marchese, The Second Disc Reviews

Saxophonist Stan Getz Delivers A Barrelful Of Tenor On 'Getz At The Gate' NPR “Fresh Air” - Kevin Whitehead

“On the album "Getz At The Gate," the great interactive drummer Roy Haynes stokes the beat as John Neves flies over the bass. It's hard to overstate what a terrific tenor saxophonist Stan Getz was and is because there's nothing dated about his style. He had a light, gorgeous tone that might convey great tenderness. He made swinging sound utterly natural and necessary. And he had an enviable melodic imagination as an improviser. His inspiration Lester Young famously said a good solo tells a story. And Getz could spin a tale. This is from Harold Arlen's ballad "When The Sun Comes Out."
- Kevin Whitehead, NPR, “Fresh Air”


“Our collective thirst for jazz from iconic players may be insatiable but recent efforts continue to go a long way toward satisfying those cravings, whether it be discoveries of unreleased Coltrane, Monk, Mingus, and now, the latest, saxophonist Stan Getz from 1961, before his breakout bossa nova period. These 15 tracks, spread over two discs and three LPs, are taken from one night at NYC’s Village Gate, professionally recorded and likely intended for release, but lost for 58 years and now rediscovered. The two sets are replicated in the same sequence herein. This was a relatively new quartet that didn’t stay together very long, featuring pianist Steve Kuhn, bassist John Neves, and drummer Roy Haynes. This was the unit Getz formed having recently returned from Europe and exploring a new more aggressive sound. Kuhn had recently finished with John Coltrane’s Quartet (prior to McCoy Tyner’s arrival) and Coltrane’s rising popularity at the time certainly influenced Getz’s new approach, which, in hindsight, we can now refer to as a “road not taken.” 1962 proved to be a breakout year for Getz with Jazz Samba followed in short order by Jazz Samba Encore (’63) and Getz/Gilberto (’64).

Kuhn was young at the time and still forming his own technique while veteran Roy Haynes had built a reputation as one of the most inventive drummers in jazz, a peer of Elvin Jones at this point. This package includes several pieces that Getz recorded in the ‘50s (including “When the Sun Comes Out,” “Like Someone in Love,” and “Spring Can Hang You Up the Most.” Yet, we also have the only known Getz recordings of “It’s Alright with Me” and “Yesterday’s Gardenias.”  Getz is known mostly as a cool, smooth player but reveals a full emotional display here, especially on the up-temp choruses of “Airegin” and his emotive, tender reading in the ballad “Where Do You Go?” which opens the second disc. Interestingly, there is only one Getz penned piece, “Blues” in an album comprised of mostly standards and some iconic tunes from other tenor giants – “Airegin” (Sonny Rollins), “Impressions” (John Coltrane), and “Jumpin’ with Symphony Sid” (Lester Young) as well as Dizzy’s classic “Woody ‘N You” and Monk’s “52nd Street Theme.”

Another major attraction of these rediscovered packages are the copious historical notes provided within.  We draw a few things from these, courtesy of jazz historian Bob Blumenthal. At the root of these sessions is a player not heard on the sessions. Unfortunately, the virtuosic bassist, Scott LaFaro, who had played with Getz in ’58, before Getz left for Europe, was the first person Getz contacted upon his return. LaFaro selected a rhythm section of the young fellow Bostonian Kuhn and drummer Pete LaRoca, both of whom had glowing resumes. This trio recorded “Airegin” with Getz in February although LaFaro insisted that LaRoca be replaced by Roy Haynes later.  This quartet performed at Newport on July 3rd and on July 6th LaFaro perished in an automobile accident.

Less than two weeks later Getz was in the studio for the first Focus session and this is when Neves, from Herb Pomeroy’s quintet and big band, made his first appearance. Neves, like Haynes and Kuhn, was from Boston, and because he had played with Kuhn and Haynes separately, was a natural fit. While he wasn’t as daring as LaFaro, he’s spot-on in terms of rhythm and tone. Kuhn, during this formative period, relied on block chords and the harmonic influence of Bill Evans and in later years became a stalwart on the ECM label and continues to be a  highly versatile, renowned pianist, composer and educator. Haynes went back with Getz to 1949 and ’50 and recorded Gigi Gryce’s “Wildwood” with him in 1951. Haynes’ drumming is clearly a highlight of these sessions, especially his dialogues with Getz in several places (i.e. “Blues”) as well as his one extended solo on “52nd Street Theme.” Haynes, at 94, is one of the living legends of jazz with a 70-year career in a wide range of styles ranging from swing and bebop to jazz fusion and avant-garde jazz. He has a highly expressive, personal style (“Snap Crackle” was a nickname given him in the 1950s).

This quartet was strong. Getz plays with more passion, energy, and creativity here than one typically associated with him. Nonetheless, this quarter disbanded by the end of the year and once Getz teamed with guitarist Charlie Byrd for Jazz Samba in February of ’62, even with the return of Kuhn later that year, the audience was primed to hear the bossa nova material and not this engaging bop and post-bop material. Fortunately, we get to hear it now with remarkable sound quality accompanied by its attendant history.”
- Jim Hynes Glide Magazine