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Stan Getz: The Complete Roost Recordings

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With a tone as light and clear as a country day in May, Stan Getz early on came to symbolize the musical genre forever after known as “cool.” It was both an innocent, youthful sound and a hip emotional stance, a soft breeze wafting through a pretty girl’s hair and an emotional shield against the crudities of big city life. As translucent and subtly shaded as an ice-sculpted swan, Getz’s sound combined the poignancy, grace and vulnerability of Lester Young with a thrust of the searing, steely brilliance of Charlie Parker, and through this alchemy brought to jazz a timbre unique to its history. The predominant voices on the tenor sax in the mid-1940s were those of the virile and majestic Coleman Hawkins, the alternately sensual and savage Ben Webster, the serpentine and dynamic Don Byas, and the gentle and soft-spoken Lester Young. But when bebop began changing the jazz public’s taste in saxophone sound, there was a felt need for a new approach to tenor sonority. Bop, with its emphasis on cleanly executed, multi-noted, unison passages at blinding tempos, demanded a timbre lean enough to parallel the fleet articulation of trumpeters and pianists. The rich, heavy, overtly masculine sonorities of Hawkins, Webster and Byas were perceived as inappropriate to the new jazz, so the time found the man in a 19-year-old big band veteran named Stan Getz.

But Stan was also a romantic, whose love for melody removed him from the center of bebop. He soon found his favored niche as a leader of quartets and quintets in which he was the sole hornman and, after several recording dates in this context for other labels, he began his association with Roost. This compilation brings together all of the sessions originally recorded for Roost, but omits the March 23, 1951 Stockholm date which, though reissued on Roost, was initially recorded for the Swedish Met label. All alternate takes from the first three quartet sessions (May and December 1950 and March 1951) are included, as well as three previously unreleased tracks from the quintet session recorded live at Boston’s Storyville. For the May recordings, Stan used his regular rhythm section of Al Haig, Tommy Potter and Roy Haynes, while for the next two he chose Horace Silver and his regular team of bassist Joe Galloway and drummer Walter Bolden.

The Storyville date, which consumes all of Disc Two and more, finds Stan with guitarist Jimmy Raney, one of his most rewarding front-line partners, Haig, bassist Teddy Kotick and drummer Tiny Kahn. Disc Three concludes the Getz-led dates with two studio sessions from August 1951 and December 1952, with Raney the only sideman common to both. The other players are, respectively, Silver and Duke Jordan, Leonard Gaskin and Bill Crow, and Roy Haynes and Frank Isola. Rarely heard since their initial popularity are the March 1952 sides by guitarist Johnny Smith’s quintet, of which “Moonlight In Vermont” became as much of a hit for Stan as his earlier solo on Woody Herman’s “Early Autumn.” The set closes with three live Birdland recordings from December 1954 featuring Stan with the Count Basie band. Here, he sounds closer to Pres than he had in many years.

Credit is also due producer Mike Cuscuna’s restoration team, Malcolm Addey and Ron McMaster and author Doug Ramsey for his well-written, perceptive notes.