"I had been playing to impress other musicians, which is very common among young players... It was through Stan that I discovered who you're really supposed to be playing for. He changed my whole outlook."
- Gary Burton, vibraphonist who played with Getz from 1964-1966
“One of the most concisely accurate appraisals of Stan Getz was written by Don Gold in Down Beat about a previous Getz album. Gold spoke of "his infinite taste, richly flowing conception, and warm feeling. He can create moving ballad forms or exciting up-tempo patterns, characterized in both cases by long, lovely phrases."
There is also an increasing strength and fullness of tone in Getz's work in the past few years. The sound that, as one British critic once wrote, took on occasionally the quality of a whisper, has become more assertive without any loss of the lyricism that has been Getz's key quality. Lyricism and logic. Getz is able to really build an integrated improvisation that in retrospect is heard as a whole with all its parts clearly and almost inevitably inter-related. He doesn't just run changes on a song, but instead interprets the song while making it a personal message. He never lets technique take over for its own hollow sake.”
- Nat Hentoff, Jazz author and critic
Although it is not mentioned in David Gelly’s excellent biography Stan Getz: Nobody Else But Me , after he left George Shearing’s quintet and before he joined Stan Getz’s quartet, Gary Burton spent time co-leading his own quartet with drummer-vibraphonist Larry Bunker. The Bunker-Burton quartet did make an in-performance recording at Shelly’s Manne Hole in Hollywood, CA and Larry actually toured for awhile as the drummer in the Getz-Burton Quartet which is documented in a recording of a concert that took place at Koseinenkin, Kaikan, in Tokyo, Japan on July 18, 1965.
All due credit to Roy Haynes’ work with Stan, but Larry playing with Stan, Gary and bassist Steve Swallow is filled with an energy and a magnetism that really sets the tone for the high quality of the music performed at this concert.
“The bossa nova made Stan Getz's fortune, but the years of its great success were by no means carefree ones for him. When the single of 'Desafinado* won the 1963 Grammy Award for the Best Jazz Solo Performance, and with Jazz Samba still figuring in the charts, Charlie Byrd began voicing loud complaints. He pointed out, with more than a little justice, that he had been the instigator of Getz's present success.
He had introduced Getz to bossa nova in the first place, devised the effective format of the Jazz Samba band, following their abortive first attempt, chosen the material, assembled the musicians and even picked out a studio. "All Stan had to do," he said in an aggrieved interview with Down Beat, "was come in and play." And yet he, Byrd, had received no share of the royalties, nor had his role been acknowledged in the Grammy citation. Creed Taylor replied to that last complaint by pointing out that the prize was for the best solo, and there was no guitar solo on the single, which seems a touch pharisaical [holier-than-thou or hypocritical], to put it mildly. Byrd finally went to law, securing a lump sum in respect of back royalties and a share in future profits, but it would not have hurt either Getz or MGM to have done the decent thing and paid up with good grace.
Then there was the question of Getz's continuing mood-swings and violent outbursts. These seem to have been both the cause and the result of his binge drinking. He would become sullen and argumentative, then hit the bottle, then start attacking people and smashing up the furniture, his usual target being Monica [Mrs. Getz]. Getz's biographer, Donald L Maggin, consulted a psychiatrist who treated Getz in later life. His opinion was that what Maggin called Getz's "psychic pain" stemmed originally from his mother, Goldie, who was severely depressed herself. Throughout his childhood he had tried to please her, attempting to relieve her depression, but the task had proved impossible, leaving him with profound feelings of failure, remorse and guilt. The violent outbursts represented attempts to break out of this doomed cycle. The drink and drugs may once have provided temporary relief, but now they only made matters worse.
In his book, Stan Getz: A Life In Jazz, Maggin provides copious, detailed and harrowing details of Getz's outbursts, based mainly on the testimony of his children and of Monica herself. On many occasions the police were called, and sometimes he had to be arrested for his own safety and that of his family. At least once he attempted suicide by gas. In the light of these events, his extraordinary 1954 letter to Down Beat from prison, in which he accuses himself of "degeneracy of mind" appears distressingly consistent.
Yet to all outward appearances the family life of the Getzes ran on untroubled in its bustling, harmonious course. Monica became involved with the promotion of his career, even to the extent of occupying an office at Verve's New York headquarters for a while. It's difficult to say how much influence she had over his work, although she obviously felt she did. "Stan has not always been fair to his audience," she said in a Melody Maker interview. "I think he respects the people now, though. He tries to show this in the way he does his show and in the songs; the songs are so important... He's learned that the long, egotistical solos don't necessarily mean anything. They don't particularly communicate." The interview makes great play with the pop success of The Girl From Ipanema', comparing its appeal to that of The Beatles.
An effort was certainly afoot to consolidate Getz's position as a pop artist. In October 1963 he recorded the album Reflections, accompanied by a string orchestra conducted by Claus Ogerman, with arrangements by Ogerman and Lalo Schifrin. It includes new versions of both 'Early Autumn' and 'Moonlight In Vermont,' Henry Mancini's theme tune from Charade, the new movie starring Gary Grant and Audrey Hepburn), and, bizarrely, an Ogerman arrangement of 'Blowin' In The Wind'. Verve were so taken with this last item that they deleted the existing single of 'The Girl From Ipanema' and reissued it with 'Blowin' In The Wind' as the B-side, in place of 'So Danco Samba'. The whole album has a slightly unfocused feeling to it. There is rather too much echo on the tenor and the orchestrations tend to be over-busy. By far the best piece is a good, straight account of 'Spring Can Really Hang You Up The Most', with Kenny Burrell's guitar prominent in the accompaniment.
MONSTER OF A PLAYER
While all these developments were taking place, the Stan Getz Quartet continued as a going concern, playing concerts and clubs. Steve Kuhn left at the end of 1963 and Getz could find no immediate candidate for a replacement. The matter became urgent in January 1964 when the quartet was booked for a three-week tour of Canada, with Joao Gilberto as guest artist. Getz called his old comrade Lou Levy in Los Angeles for advice. Levy could not think of a pianist who might be up to the job, but mentioned a 21-year-old vibraphone player, Gary Burton, who had recently left George Shearing's quintet and was currently freelancing in New York. (Burton had in fact played in the orchestra on a couple of the Reflections sessions.)
Whereas all the leading jazz vibraphone soloists used two mallets, one in each hand, to strike the keys, Burton used four, which enabled him to play four-note chords. No one had ever used a tinkling vibraphone as the main chord instrument in a rhythm section before, and the idea intrigued Getz. With the tour looming, he called Burton.
"The first two weeks went terribly," Burton later recalled. "I'd never really done much comping [playing chordal accompaniment to a soloist], and he was really particular about comping. He was used to the best and he hated what I was doing. So I'd try a little bit, and pretty soon he'd get frustrated with what I was doing and tell me to lay out for a chorus or more and let him play alone with bass and drums [Gene Cherico and Joe Hunt]. This went on for a couple of weeks, while I was frantically trying to figure out what to play, when to play, how to stay out of his way. And he didn't know how to tell me. All he could tell me was when he didn't like it. But by the third week things started coming together. I got the hang of how to play with him and he began to like the sound of things."
Burton had been hired for a three-week tour and assumed that their association would end when the tour was over. But Getz asked him to stay on for a further few weeks and he eventually stayed for almost three years. "As I got my own playing together, I began to pay more attention to what he was doing, and discovered this monster of a player," said Burton. "I had no idea that this man was such a major artist. I stood next to him and I would play what seemed to me some incredibly mechanical something-or-other, and he would just play the melody and the crowd would be practically in tears. He played that tenor like he was singing. He had this great ability to communicate with people, and I realized I had been taking the audience for granted. I had been playing to impress other musicians, which is very common in young players. You believe they're your true critics but, frankly, they're not. They're the most fickle and opinionated. They filter everything though their own preoccupations, tastes, preferences and so on. It was through Stan that I discovered who you're really supposed to be playing for. He changed my whole outlook."
A matter of days after returning from Canada, Getz took the quartet into Rudy Van Gelder's studio at Englewood Cliffs, NJ, to record an album for Verve. This was to be a purely jazz production, with no bossa nova within earshot. "Stan wanted to get the group on record, and he was worrying that bossa nova was burying his jazz identity," Burton recalled. The album, when it came out, was entitled Nobody Else But Me, though it had to wait 30 years to see the light of day. The last thing Verve wanted from Stan Getz in 1964 was an all-out jazz album.
The content of the album is obviously based on the programme they evolved during the Canadian tour, and it shows that, in this remarkably short time, Burton had managed not only to work out a way of accompanying Getz effectively, but had begun to contribute new material to the quartet's repertoire. It's also obvious he was already well advanced in the process of creating a whole new persona for the vibraphone in jazz. The most obvious difference lay in his consistent use of four mallets, enabling him to treat the vibraphone almost like an enormous piano. Unlike such distinguished predecessors as Lionel Hampton or Milt Jackson, he rarely if ever turned on the vibrator fans, which create the wavering vibrato from which the instrument gets its name. The resultant sound is clear and crystalline, perfectly suited to Burton's filigree style.
Nobody Else But Me, which was recorded in a single day (March 4th 1964) is a beautiful piece of work. Getz's own playing, especially on the ballads 'Here's That Rainy Day' and 'Little Girl Blue', bears out Burton's observation that he played the tenor saxophone "like he was singing", his voice rising through a vapour of soft vibraphone chords. By contrast, the version of 'What Is This Thing Called Love' rushes along so wildly, at 84 bars a minute, that it has the distinct air of a creature let loose after long confinement. In the two-bar break leading from his theme statement into his solo, Getz plays a rising phrase which takes him to altissimo D, way above the 'official' range of the instrument. Such occurrences are extremely rare in his playing, although it goes without saying that all the 'freak' notes are immaculately in tune.
At first, Burton had not been particularly impressed by the idea of working with Stan Getz. As a sharp young graduate of Boston's Berklee School of Music, he knew little about Getz, beyond the bossa nova and some old records from the 1950s. His first inkling that there was more to the man than he had imagined came when Getz gave him a copy of Focus, which impressed him immensely. Burton's composition 'Six-Nix-Quix-Flix' on this album shows the influence of Focus very clearly - in its mood, its melodic style and, in particular, its 6/8 time signature. A pretty, fluttering little piece, it is unlike any music Getz had so far played with a small band.
Burton's other contribution is an ingenious arrangement or adaptation of 'I'm Late, I'm Late', aptly titled 'Out Of Focus', cleverly orchestrated (if such a term can apply to a quartet) and full of tonal contrast. In a manner of speaking, Burton also contributed the number entitled 'Sweet Sorrow', written by his friend from Berklee days, Michael Gibbs. Once again Getz's openness to contributions by very young, largely unknown musicians is striking. 'Sweet Sorrow' is a spiky, abstract kind of piece, the kind of thing of which Monica presumably disapproved. She would, however, have loved this treatment of Gershwin's evergreen, 'Summertime', so different from all previous approaches to the tune, with an ostinato bass figure running under it all the way and Getz rising to heights of great passion and intensity. All told, Nobody Else But Me marks a high point in Getz's recorded work. It's a shame that the world had to wait until 1994 to enjoy it, especially since Verve did eventually release the results of a session, recorded a few months later, about which Getz was extremely unhappy. This was planned as a quartet album with the pianist Bill Evans, a promising idea on the face of it, but it simply didn't work. Even the best performance, 'My Heart Stood Still', has a rushed, stumbling air about it. Significantly, Getz solos much of the time with just bass and drums accompaniment. For some reason, too, his tone fails to bloom.
Getz/Gilberto was named Album Of The Year in the 1964 Grammy Awards, and The Girl From Ipanema' won Best Single. It made commercial sense for Astrud Gilberto to join the New Stan Getz Quartet (as the band was now being billed), to make a profitable touring package. Astrud and Joao Gilberto had been on the point of separating at the time of the Getz/Gilberto sessions, and they were now divorced. Pursuing his usual policy of making a pass at any presentable woman he met, Getz now instigated an affair with Astrud. It was by no means an idyllic relationship. The Girl From Ipanema turned out to be a tough cookie. By all accounts, when they were not either on-stage or in bed, she and Getz spent most of their time together squabbling and fighting. Nevertheless, Astrud and the quartet made an ideal combination and their recordings together have a blithe, insouciant charm that belies the off-stage hostilities.
The album Getz Au Go-Go, supposedly recorded live in May 1964 at the eponymous New York club, catches the partnership very well. It later emerged that little, if any, of the original live recordings went into the final version, which was mostly done in the studio, with 'live' effects added. Indeed three of the numbers ('Corcovado', 'Eu E Voce' and 'The Telephone Song') are by a different band altogether, without Burton but including a guitar (allegedly Kenny Burrell) and with occasional touches by a pianist who sounds suspiciously like Jobim himself. Could at least some of these be leftovers from the Getz/Gilberto sessions? The whole tangled affair has kept discographers busy for years, but the ease with which performances could be dubbed and spliced by the 1960s makes it unlikely that anyone will ever get to the bottom of it.
Whatever the case, the remaining seven tracks are by the quartet, three of them with Astrud. She sings 'One-Note Samba' in both Portuguese and English, with a wonderfully tricky contrary-motion part by Getz in the middle section of the song. She sounds even younger and more ingenuous in her native language than in English. Also included are two classic American songs transposed into the bossa nova idiom - 'It Might As Well Be Spring' by Rodgers & Hammerstein and Benny Carter's beautiful 'Only Trust Your Heart'. Apart from their undoubted charm, these performances mark a significant step in the incorporation of bossa nova into the jazz vocabulary. It very quickly became common practice occasionally to recast standard songs in the bossa nova idiom in the interests of variety, a practice that continues to this day.
Also included in GetzAu Go-Go are further versions of 'Summertime', 'Here's That Rainy Day' and 'Six-Nix-Pix-Clix', together with another Gary Burton original, a perky, quirkish little piece in 12/8 time called 'The Singing Song'. It's obvious from the freedom and relish with which Getz plays on this and other Burton tunes that the young vibraphone player had provided him with a challenge and stimulus in which he delighted.
Getz's exclusive contract with MGM/Verve allowed him to record, by agreement, as a featured guest with other artists on other labels. It was under this arrangement that he recorded for Columbia on May 25th and 26th 1964, first with Tony Bennett and, on the same day, with Bob Brookmeyer. The rhythm section was the same for both sessions, consisting of Herbie Hancock (piano) and Ron Carter (bass) - both members of the Miles Davis Quintet at the time - and John Coltrane's drummer, Elvin Jones.
The Tony Bennett session yielded only one number, a simple, grave version of 'Danny Boy', to which Getz contributes both obbligato and a restrained solo. Three further numbers - 'Clear Out Of This World', 'Just Friends' and 'Have You Met Miss Jones' - were recorded at a later session, and all four were released as part of Bennett's album Swingin' Till The Girls Come Home. Getz often said how much he enjoyed working with singers, and once admitted that he lived in hope of one day being called by Frank Sinatra, "like a bride waiting for the groom." His playing with Tony Bennett suggests that, had it happened, it would have been a memorable meeting.
The remainder of the two Columbia sessions saw Brookmeyer and Burton added to the line-up and resulted in enough material for an entire album, released the following year under the title Bob Brookmeyer And Friends. The customary Getz-Brookmeyer magic works again and all eight numbers are superb, from Brookmeyer's jaunty 'Jive Hoot' to Getz's luminous accounts of 'Skylark' and 'Misty'. Getz plays with great drive and intensity on the Gershwin number 'Who Cares?' Once again, he seems to be revelling in the opportunity to play up-tempo swing. One particularly attractive piece is 'Some Time Ago', a jazz waltz by the bassist Sergei Mihanovich, which was in the process of becoming a minor jazz standard. Getz and Brookmeyer share the theme between them and pick up one another's solo ideas in the easygoing way that typified their whole relationship.
The vogue for bossa nova was now winding down, but its connotations of youth, love and freedom were still potent enough for 'The Girl From Ipanema', sung by Astrud with the quartet, to be featured on the soundtrack of the movie Get Yourself A College Girl, starring Nancy Sinatra, among others. Perhaps the last great event of the bossa nova years was a concert at Carnegie Hall on October 9th 1964, featuring Getz's quartet with Astrud Gilberto and Joao Gilberto with his own new band. The bands played a set each, later released by Verve as Getz/Gilberto 2, and combined for the final three numbers. For some reason these remained unissued until 1989, when they appeared in a four-CD Verve compilation of Getz's bossa nova work, immaculate to the very last note.
The quartet with Gary Burton was proving to be both stable and immensely popular. It toured widely and wherever it went it drew packed houses and effusive praise from the critics. So it is strange that so little of its music was formally recorded, and even less of it issued at the time. Live recordings were made in concert halls from Canada to Japan, and in Europe there were full-length television programmes, too. The live recording that Verve chose to release was made in November 1966 in Paris, towards the end of the quartet's existence. Gene Cherico and Joe Hunt had departed by this time, Cherico replaced first by Chuck Israels and then by Steve Swallow, and Hunt by Stan's ideal drummer, Roy Haynes.
Despite slightly off-centre balance, the Paris recording justifies all the praise that was being heaped on the quartet. The playing is surprisingly broad, more expansive in gesture than before and almost violent in its sudden changes of mood and dynamics. Getz's ballad feature is a heart-stopping performance of 'When The World Was Young', which comes as close to passionate song as any instrumentalist ever has. Two bossa novas are included among the seven numbers, Getz's personal favourites 'Manha de Carnaval' and 'O Grande Amor', and Burton's 'The Singing Song' receives the workout of its life, with Haynes exploding delightfully in all directions. Burton's own feature is a sweet and completely non-subversive treatment of 'Edelweiss'.
Apart from touring with the quartet, Getz undertook two major projects in the mid-1960s, both involving further collaboration with Eddie Sauter. The first was the soundtrack music to Mickey One, a film directed by Arthur Penn and starring Warren Beatty. Beatty plays the part of Mickey, a nightclub comedian ("I'm a Polak Noel Coward") down on his luck and being pursued by unnamed assailants. We never get to see the pursuers directly, and gradually the possibility dawns that they might be figments of Mickey's paranoid imagination. The sense of unreality is heightened by the fact that few of the characters actually have names; they are 'the Girl' or 'the Agent'. Penn cast Getz's tenor saxophone as a kind of musical doppelganger to Beatty's Mickey. "What is the sound of terror?" he asked in his notes to the subsequent album of the music. "The sound of loneliness, fear in the city?
For Mickey One, it had to be a sound that would express the central character and reflect his inner life." Getz and Sauter went to great pains to fulfil this brief. During the course of the film Getz can be heard imitating a rock'n'roll saxophonist and a street busker, multi-tracking duets and trios with himself and generally exercising the kind of skills he had not called upon since leaving the NBC staff orchestra.
Mickey One was chosen as the US entry in the 1965 Venice, New York and Rio de Janeiro film festivals, received much critical approval, and flopped miserably at the box office. Arthur Penn and Warren Beatty moved on to make their next movie, Bonnie And Clyde, while Getz and Sauter began planning another major work, a concerto for tenor saxophone and symphony orchestra.
Meanwhile, the periodic mayhem which was a permanent feature of the Getz family's domestic life was getting worse, although they were still managing to keep it out of the papers. Monica's Melody Maker interview, previously quoted, draws to a heart-warming close as follows: "At home, Stan doesn't practise his horn a great deal. We have five children, you know, and they love to be with him. If he's not doing something special with one of them, he enjoys swimming in our pool and playing ping-pong, or perhaps once in a while entertaining friends."
In December 1965, Getz appeared on-stage at Carnegie Hall with his right foot swathed in bandages, the result of "an accident at home", as it was reported. In a drunken fury, during a fight with Monica, he had smashed his foot through a plate glass door and severed an artery. After one of these outbursts he would be quite calm, even apologetic, but refused to accept that anything was seriously amiss. Yes, he'd admit, he could be short-tempered, but he was under a lot of stress maintaining the almost superhuman standards he set himself. Yes, he loved his wife and children. No, he was not an alcoholic... Monica, on the other hand, believed that drink was the cause of these violent episodes. She had discreetly sought professional advice and learned of a drug called Antabuse, which caused an allergic reaction to alcohol. Getz, asserting that he was not an alcoholic, refused to take it, so she determined to administer Antabuse without his knowledge, and against the guidelines specifically laid down for its use. This decision was to have far-reaching consequences.
The other collaboration with Eddie Sauter, the concerto, was to be part of a major concert at Tanglewood, the outdoor concert arena at Lennox, Massachusetts, which was the summer base of the Boston Pops Orchestra and their conductor Arthur Fielder. Also contributing music were the composers David Raksin, Alec Wilder and Manny Albam. The Getz quartet, augmented by guitarist Jim Hall, was to be included in some of the orchestrations. The Tanglewood Concerto is an ambitious work, and hugely accomplished from all points of view, but it lacks the vital spark that illuminates Focus. It is almost as though Sauter, that most judicious of orchestrators, had been overwhelmed by the forces at his disposal. The man whose arrangements for Benny Goodman have been compared favourably with the work of Richard Strauss suddenly becomes diffuse and hesitant.
Getz's first entry, which should have been riveting and memorable, floats by almost unnoticed. As pleasant music for a summer's evening it passes muster, but as a major work the concerto fails lamentably. Far better are Alec Wilder's 'Three Ballads For Stan' and even Albam's brisk recasting of 'The Girl From Ipanema', featuring Roy Haynes. It is said that one piece planned for the evening, Albam's setting of the Jewish lament 'Eli, Eli', did not arrive in time to be rehearsed, much to Getz's chagrin because he had planned it to be the climax of the whole concert.
This story reminds us that, like so many leading figures in 2oth century American music, Stan Getz was a characteristically Jewish-American artist, just as Sinatra was characteristically Italian-American, Crosby Irish-American, Bix Beiderbecke German-American, Armstrong and any number of great jazz musicians African-American, and so on. In the case of those from European origins, their American roots were rarely more than two generations deep and fragments of the old cultures still adhered to them, indelibly colouring their music.
Throughout Getz's recorded career, but especially in later life, it's possible to catch a distinctively Hebraic cast in the fall of a note or the sob of an exaggerated vibrato. It was reported that once, on a visit to Israel, he did play 'Eli, Eli', with such feeling that he reduced many in his audience to tears.”
© Copyright ® Steven Cerra, copyright protected; all rights reserved.