Stan Getz will always be admired for the purity of his tenor saxophone tone, spawned by Lester Young, personalized and polished to dazzling point by Getz. Indeed, for the latter part of his career he used it to disguise the fact that he often coasted. That stage was still some way in the future when he recorded Award Winner
for Verve in Hollywood in August of 1957. He'd already attracted attention in the annual magazine polls, hence the album's title. By this time he'd already been working professionally for over a decade. His playing had by then reached a high level of technical accomplishment, and no other player in the history of the music ever had a better grasp of the sheer mechanics of saxophone playing. But the imperviousness of his work often gave it the air of technical accomplishment acheived at the expense of feeling. To be sure, the listener is never in any doubt over the player's facility, and Getz is never shy about the extent of it. Admirable though this may be, doubts can be entertained over the level of feeling he invested in his playing.
On Award Winner the drive that was an integral part of his early work is still there and the puriity is happily diluted by an earthy impression of Getz wanting to engage with his band, as opposed to requiring them merely to provide accompaniment for a master at work. As time passed, with one or two honourable exceptions on record, this vitality of spirit waned.