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Discernment. Online

Getz was one of the best exponents of lyrical ballads on the tenor saxophone


A lyrical jazz master pulls out the stops

Cafe Montmartre shows saxophonist Stan Getz at his best, and in his favourite setting

Stan Getz: Café Montmartre
Universal Music
Rs 125

Born in 1927, Stan Getz started his professional career playing in big bands, notably Woody Herman's, at the end of the swing era in the 1940s. As he struck out on his own as a leader of small groups in the '50s, he absorbed the new idioms of be-bop and cool jazz. Especially cool, with his warm, smooth sound that lent itself to sounding laid back and unhurried even when ripping off notes at a hectic bop pace. For four decades till his death in 1991, Getz was one of the best exponents of lyrical ballads on the tenor saxophone.

This album shows Getz off at his best in a favourite setting. Like many musicians of his age he found the jazz atmosphere of Europe congenial and appreciative, and grew especially attached to Scandinavia. The selection here is taken from stints at the Café Montmartre in Copenhagen. In the July 1987 session, represented by five numbers, Getz's band comprised Kenny Barron on piano, Rufus Reid on bass and Victor Lewis on drums. On the four tracks from March 1991, just months before his death, he had dispensed with Lewis and Reid.

Barron, a brilliant accompanist for such greats as Dizzy Gillespie, is as always superb in support, his wonderful solos being an able foil to Getz's own, which fairly drip honey. Reid and Lewis are, in comparison, limited to accompaniment and rather quiet, Lewis especially being almost inaudible for long stretches. Although they perform well, it's evident that the bit roles they played in 1987 logically led to their elimination in 1991. The album is thus practically a duo recording.

Most of the numbers are medium-tempo rather than slow, despite being warm and lyrical. They usually start with a short intro by Barron, with Getz taking up the theme next and flowing into a solo improvisation. Generally, Barron next improvises a solo and Getz returns to take the theme and close the piece. Getz's improvisations frequently start right from the theme, sometimes giving the impression of one long improvised solo without a theme: on a couple of pieces they go all the way to the end without a piano interlude. Getz's warmth shines through on the occasional uptempo or be-boppish passage and gains strength on the crescendos he often builds up to at the end as he pulls out the stops.

This is top-flight jazz, its only blemish being Getz's tendency to hog the limelight. Against which one must set the confirmation that old jazz soldiers die with their boots on, making great music almost to the end.


Published on 5 January 2003

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