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Stan Getz: Moments in Time

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What a magical week it must have been at Keystone Korner in May of 1976. Stan Getz had a six-night stand at the San Francisco club, and each night was split in two. The first set featured the saxophonist’s quartet with pianist Joanne Brackeen, bassist Clint Houston and drummer Billy Hart, and for the second set they were joined by Brazilian guitarist and vocalist João Gilberto, with whom Getz had made bossa nova’s defining record, 1964’s Getz/Gilberto.

In 2012, Resonance producers Zev Feldman and George Klabin approached Keystone owner Todd Barkan about digging into his massive collection of recordings made at the club, and came across the Getz tapes. The result, four years later: two essential albums, one featuring the quartet and the other showcasing Gilberto.

Each evening began with the quartet, so we’ll start with that disc. Moments in Time is a beautiful, varied program that no doubt represents a typical set from that week. Getz is at peak power here, his tenor exuding both emotional warmth and West Coast coolness. After a lovely introduction, the quartet does Harry Warren’s “Summer Night” as midtempo hard bop; Getz solos with muscularity for several minutes and Brackeen takes an extended, tireless romp in the midsection of the nine-minute tune. As if preparing for Gilberto’s appearance, the group offers a breezy version of Antonio Carlos Jobim’s samba “O Grande Amor,” featuring Getz’s supple lines and Hart’s lilting rhythm-keeping. Getz infuses his restrained blowing with breathy vibrato on Wayne Shorter’s ballad “Infant Eyes,” supported by Brackeen’s empathetic comping and Houston’s economical plucks.

The program features soul-jazz (Kenny Wheeler’s “The Cry of the Wild Goose,” with Hart dropping funk beats), balladry (Horace Silver’s “Peace”) and Latin bop (12 minutes of Dizzy Gillespie’s “Con Alma”) before finishing with pretty takes of Duke Ellington’s “Prelude to a Kiss” and Jimmy Rowles’ “Morning Star.”

The quartet seamlessly shifts to samba mode when Gilberto joins. Gilberto, whose beautifully flat and vibrato-free vocals were the yang to wife Astrud’s yin on the hits “Corcovado (Quiet Nights of Quiet Stars)” and “The Girl From Ipanema,” hadn’t lost any of his touch in the intervening 12 years. This is more Gilberto’s stage than Getz’s; the saxophonist doesn’t play on every tune, the quartet fades to the background, and Gilberto’s simply strummed guitar is the featured instrument-sometimes, as on “Rosa Morena,” the only instrument, save two bass notes per measure.

But in this simplicity-the unadorned chords, the unfussy Portuguese vocals-lies the beauty. The disc begins and ends with takes of “É Preciso Perdoar,” which contrasts simple, repeated chords with Gilberto’s lovely melody and Getz’s lyrical blowing. In between are 10 more gorgeous little sambas and bossa novas, by turns joyful and mournful, including the well-worn “Aguas de Março” (“Waters of March”) and “Doralice,” and lesser-known beauties. The compositions and performance may be uncomplicated, but the melodies and plaintive singing will break your heart.

Originally Published