Tenor saxophonist, Stan Getz, had a way with music that was always pretty uncompromising. Capable of producing a tone of exceptional beauty, he often relied on it to disguise a certain imperious quality in his work. If this was indeed the case, then it was prevalent for the majority of his career. However, musically speaking, he was at his hungriest in the early 1950s and this set is a nice companion to The Complete Roost Recordings (Blue Note,1950-54).
It documents a body of music that finds Getz in the kind of form that many others could only have envied. His admirers should however be warned, that their hero doesn't appear on the majority of this set, which makes his prominent billing a bit misleading. Once he's off the scene, the music settles down into a program very much in the archetypal West Coast vein, and in that respect, there's nothing here likely to change the way long-term fans will feel about that transitory fad.
Getz is in good form from the off. His solo on "I Only Have Eyes For You" is notable not only for that extraordinary tone and style (derived of course from Lester Young but even at this stage transcending the influence) but also for Getz's sense of rhythmic displacement. In this aspect of his work, Getz is aided in no small part, by Shelly Manne on drums, and the lesson is really brought home on an up-tempo version of "Love Me Or Leave Me," in which the tempopulled in different directions by the two mentakes on an extraordinary elasticity.
With Getz's departure after the first six tracks on the first disc the music loses a certain edge and Manne is almost alone in provoking interest. Pianist Hampton Hawes also turns the heat up with his contributions. His work on a quartet reading of "All The Things You Are.," with Shorty Rogers on trumpet as the only horn being a case in point; it's a welcome example of East Coast fire in the midst of West Coast politeness. Tenor saxophonist, Bob Cooper, also offers some welcome variation, especially on "Bernie's Tune," where his drive owes a certain debt to Lucky Thompson.
On the second disc the fare is very much music for faux sophisticated frat boys and their floozies. No matter how understandable it might have been for a musician to want to get out from under Stan Kenton's leadership, the music such men had produced has been, at best, only selectively inspiring over the years. And there isn't much here that will likely alter that perception.
That said, Hawes and his fellow pianists Russ Freeman and Claude Williamson do their best in salvaging something. In particular this is true of Hawes on "Morgan Davis," Freeman on the oddly-named "Comin' Thru The Rye Bread," and Williamson on "Blind Man's Bluff." Elsewhere, Barney Kessel's guitar work on the reading of "Round About Midnight" might just make listeners realize why he received praise from no less a personage than John Lennon!
For anyone not already converted to West Coast jazz from the 1950s, this is a set in which the pickings are slim, however. And the criticisms that have been made over the years are applicable here.
CD1: I Only Have Eyes For You; Jive At Five; Moonlight In Vermont; Love Me Or Leave Me; So Long Broadway; Topsy; Four Others; All The Things You Are; Creme De Menthe; Viva Zapata!; Bernie's Tune; Solitaire. CD2: Morgan Davis; La Soncailli; Luau; Comin' Thru The Rye Bread; Taking A Chance On Love; The Big Top; The Duke You Say!; Sunset Eyes; Witch Doctor No. 2; Round About Midnight; Mood For Lighthouse; Blind Man's Bluff; Lady Jean; Casa De Luz.
Stan Getz: tenor sax (CD1#1-6); Russ Freeman: piano (CD1#1-6, CD2#3-8); Howard Rumsey: bass; Shelly Manne: drums (CD1, CD2#1-8); Bob Cooper: tenor saxophone (CD1#2, CD1#4-7, CD1#9-12, CD2)); Jimmy Giuffre: baritone saxophone (CD1#2-6), tenor saxophone (CD1#7, CD1#9-12, CD2#1-8); Teddy Charles: vibes (CD1#2, CD1#4-6); Shorty Rogers: trumpet (CD1#7-12, CD2#1-8); Maynard Ferguson: trumpet (CD1#7, CD1#9-12, CD2#1-2); Milt Bernhart: trombone (CD1#7, CD1#9-12, CD2#1-8); Frank Patchen: piano (CD1#7, CD1#9-12); Hampton Hawes: piano (CD1#8, CD2#1-2); Carlos Vidal: percussion (CD1#11); Frank Rosolino: trombone (CD2#9-14); Bud Shank: alto sax and flute (CD2#9-14); Claude Williamson: piano (CD2#9-14); Stan Levey: drums (CD2#9-14); Barney Kessel (CD2#11).