Stan Getz: Getz at the Gate (Verve)

A review of a newly discovered live recording from the saxophonist

Stan Getz, Getz at the Gate
The cover of Getz at the Gate by Stan Getz

Any newly discovered vintage Stan Getz live tape has to shoulder some formidable competition—especially if you believe that the finest recordings he ever cut were the in-concert sessions he blasted his way through at the Royal Roost in 1950.

Getz was a footloose artist; adept in multiple styles, regularly on the go, he seemed to find a kind of home key on a stage leading a band. This two-disc discovery hails from a single night in late November 1961 at NYC’s Village Gate, with a different stripe of Getz. He’s fronting a four-piece, with bassist John Neves, pianist Steve Kuhn, and the heroic Roy Haynes on drums. It’s time we grant Haynes that label; ever notice how on nearly every session he contributes to, he is the player who makes his band cook?

This band is no exception, but whereas 11 years earlier at the Roost, Getz was decked out in the blues, he’s pushing the pace here. A postbop man who wants to rebop, you might say. He tears through “Airegin,” his tone like an advancing gust through a wind tunnel; it rounds the bend, and buffets you—but in a feel-good way—with its physicality. “Wildwood,” contrastingly, has the strains of the concert hall, Kuhn’s focus on providing a pianistic background for Getz’s tumbling cadenzas. “When the Sun Comes Out” unfolds with that effortless ease of a Chopin ballade which, of course, is not so easily done, but it feels firmly ensconced in nature’s corner as a kind of musical given, just as the sun’s appearance is a celestial one.

Much is made of Getz’s Lester Young-isms, but to put it in football terms, he’s more a hurry-up offense kind of guy—at least on this night. Young would let his moments come to him, waiting for gaps in the music to develop where he’d then stamp his identity, cool as you please, but Getz blows his horn like his notes are punching holes in the air. More space for his kind of sun.

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Colin Fleming

Colin Fleming writes fiction and nonfiction on myriad topics—art, film, music, sports, literature—for a wide range of publications. He also talks regularly on the radio for the likes of NPR and Downtown with Rich Kimball. His most recent book, Buried on the Beaches: Cape Stories for Hooked Hearts and Driftwood Souls (Tailwinds), was published in 2019, with an entry in Bloomsbury’s 33 1/3 series on Sam Cooke’s Live at the Harlem Square Club to follow in 2020. Find him on the web at colinfleminglit.com (where you’ll also find his unique online journal, the Many Moments More blog) and on Twitter @colinfleminglit. He lives in Boston and has contributed to JazzTimes since 2006.