Cal Tjader & Stan Getz: Sextet
Original Jazz Classics Remasters
The presence of Latin and Afro-Cuban enthusiast, vibraphonist Cal Tjader, has created a widespread misconception that Sextet was the album which sparked tenor saxophonist Stan Getz's fascination with Brazilian music and, ultimately, bossa nova. The notion has, over the years, been reinforced by the inclusion of pianist Vince Guaraldi's "Ginza Samba," whose theme statements were played over a samba beat, and which, as plain "Ginza," was the third track on side one of the album's original LP release. During the Stateside bossa nova craze of the early-to-mid-1960s, "Samba" was added opportunistically to the tune's title, and was sequenced as track one, side one on a rerelease of Sextet. It remains in prime position on this 24-bit remastered edition.
The Getz/bossa-gestation idea is, however, fanciful. Aside from the theme statements of "Ginza Samba," Sextet is set in the sumptuously lyrical but altogether "hotter," and firmly US-centric style with which Getz, under the guidance of his manager, Norman Granz, had become a major star by the late 1950s. Getz's Damascene moment came a few years later, via guitarist Charlie Byrd. On a tour of Brazil in 1961, Byrd fell in love with bossa nova; once returned to the US, he sought out Getz, played him the LPs he had brought back from Brazil, and suggested they get together and record their own album in the style. Getz needed no persuading, instantly recognizing that he and bossa nova were made for each other. The result was Getz and Byrd's Jazz Samba (Verve, 1962), plus, in due course, its hit single "Desafinado" (and, over the years, Byrd's acrimonious, and finally successful, pursuit of Getz for a bigger slice of the royalties pie).
A case could, more credibly, be made for Sextet as an album which later reignited Getz's interest in recording with a vibraphonist, following Hamp And Getz (Clef), made with Lionel Hampton in 1955. In 1964, at the height of the bossa boom, Gary Burton joined Getz's band, with which he toured and, in 1964, recorded the album Nobody Else But Me (only released, on Verve, 30 years later). Video footage of Getz and Tjader together does not exist, but Sextet's vibraphone connection provides an excuse to enjoy some wonderfully cheesy US TV footage of the Getz/Burton group (see the second YouTube clip below).
Getz and Tjader had known each other since the early 1950s. Tjader, as a member of pianist George Shearing's group, had been on the February 12, 1954 tour bus journey from Portland to Seattle, at the conclusion of which Getz was arrested for trying to score some heroin by attempting to rob a drug store. The two had long planned to record together, but the opportunity did not arise until their separate touring schedules coincidentally had them both in San Francisco on February 8, 1958, when they recorded Sextet for the Fantasy label. Granz, normally highly protective of his artists, allowed Getz to make the date because, the year before, Fantasy had loaned alto saxophonist Paul Desmond to Granz's Clef label for a quartet record with baritone saxophonist Gerry Mulligan.
Getz and Tjader each brought two colleagues to the session. Tjader brought pianist Guaraldi and guitarist Eddie Duran. Getz brought two precociously talented 21 year olds, bassist Scott LaFaro and drummer Billy Higgins. Both were on the cusp on stardom; LaFaro with pianist Bill Evans' trio, Higgins as a member of alto saxophonist Ornette Coleman's iconoclastic "free" group.
With a lineup like that, you would expect Sextet to make for prime listening, and, indeed, it does. Most OJC reissues include additional material in the shape of unreleased tracks or alternate takes. Sextet does not, because the session went so swimmingly (it was completed in around three hours) that legend holds that second takes were not necessary. Intriguingly, however, critic Ralph Gleason, who was in the studio for the last hour or so, wrote that "no tune, except two, had more than one take and even then it was a tossup as to which to use."
If second takes of such quality were recorded and were still extant in 2011, OJC's remaster would, presumably, include them. The likelihood is that the tapes containing them have been long lost. But no matter. Over the course of its 43 minutes' playing time, Sextetthough not the prologue to Getz's bossa novaproffers ample delights.
Tracks: Ginza Samba; I've Grown Accustomed To Her Face; For All We Know; Crow's Nest; Liz-Anne; Big Bear; My Buddy.
Personnel: Stan Getz: tenor saxophone; Cal Tjader: vibraphone; Vince Guaraldi: piano; Eddie Duran: guitar; Scott LaFaro: bass; Billy Higgins: drums.