Donald Harrison, Jr. (far left) and the New Orleans Music Interns (photo: Joel A. Siegel)
4. Stan Getz and Orchestra: “Night Rider” (Focus; Verve, 1962)
Certified bebopper though he was, Getz’s greatest period was really the ’60s, and he let that be known early on. Focus is a strong contender for the greatest of all jazz-with-strings albums. That’s primarily because composer/arranger Eddie Sauter wrote his orchestrations without core melodies: He left it to the saxophonist to improvise his own centerpieces. Nevertheless, Sauter filled his “movements” (such as they were) with bold rhythms, unusual timbral colors, and—best of all—the kind of taut suspense we hear in “Night Rider.” As good as it was for the strings, Getz clearly thrives on the atmosphere, responding to and often anticipating the orchestra’s tense fills and passagework. It’s not unreasonable to think that Stan Getz was born to record an album with strings, but he’s able in this session to cast doubt on assumptions about how such an album would work.