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JazzTimes 10: Essential Stan Getz Recordings

The cream of a revered tenor saxophonist’s substantial crop

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Stan Getz Copenhagen 1958
Stan Getz at Kastrup Airport, Copenhagen, September 1958 (photo: SAS Scandinavian Airlines)

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:

Michael J. West

Michael J. West is a jazz journalist in Washington, D.C. In addition to his work on the national and international jazz scenes, he has been covering D.C.’s local jazz community since 2009. He is also a freelance writer, editor, and proofreader, and as such spends most days either hunkered down at a screen or inside his very big headphones. He lives in Washington with his wife and two children.