Some years ago, a clerk at a record store recommended that I grab a copy of a compilation CD called Stan Getz for Lovers. It seems almost comical: a CD of romantic jazz ballads, “for lovers?” Of course there’s one by Stan Getz.
But we shouldn’t be too quick to dismiss this. Getz’s colossal reputation was predicated on such things for a reason: His tone, simultaneously full and breathy, was the natural evolution from Lester Young—yet it also had an original and profoundly emotional resonance. His work on ballads (and on making more upbeat tunes sound like ballads) was second to none.
Nor should we rush to pigeonhole Getz. A balladeer? Sure. He was also a dyed-in-the-wool bebop technician, one of the legendary “four brothers” that populated the saxophone section of Woody Herman’s first Herd (i.e., his bebop big band). Oh yes, and he was also an innovator: Getz is even more renowned for his groundbreaking efforts in the realm of bossa nova and Brazilian jazz than he is for his ballad work. And, when one steps back and views his career arc as a whole, one sees a player who was determined, from beginning to end, never to fall behind the times but to stay forever fresh and contemporary. Here’s a sampler of his efforts.
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Listen to a Spotify playlist featuring all of the songs in this JazzTimes 10: