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

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