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Stan Getz: Plays for Lovers

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This compilation enters a marketplace littered with Getz compilations—and it's superior to the lot. It triumphs over the ton of Verve Getz disks by virtue of not having "The Girl From Ipanema," which the Verve marketing department assumed jazz fans needed to own on at least five Getz discs. More seriously, this anthology, culled from the newly combined Fantasy and Concord labels, offers a glowing showcase of Getz the ballad genius, from the early '50s to the '80s.

The nine tunes here present a strong case for Stan Getz sharing the honor with Ben Webster as the most deep and sophisticated interpreter of ballads on tenor sax ever. When Coltrane remarked, "We would all play like Stan Getz if we could," I would speculate that Coltrane had ballads in mind when thinking of Getz's supremacy.

The selection of ballad interpretations from the '50s show a youthful, boppish Getz matched by fine musicians nowhere near his level: Cal Tjader on vibes and Vince Guaraldi on piano. Their version of "For All We Know" could have been more effective if Getz had been alone in the studio, for the little difference their tiny coloristic contributions make. A better coordination with Getz is offered by bassist Percy Heath on "My Old Flame." You can nearly swear that somewhere Lady Day was humming along.

The collection skips from the '50s to the '70s, since Getz was the bossa nova money machine for Verve in the decade between. The '70s selection is a fine one with the Bill Evans trio—in spite of the fact that Evans and Getz both sound they are happily ignoring the cues of the other, stubborn bastards as they were—but somehow the players get through it with grace.

The selections from the '80s, originally released on Concord, are simply majestic, and it is beyond me why they didn't receive more critical acclaim when they were originally released. "Close Enough for Love" and "A Time for Love" are occasions for Getz to stretch into long, lyrical lines that became his signature until his death. Pianist Lou Levy gives just the right sympathetically subtle support, and did Getz ever have a more sensitive drummer than Victor Lewis?

Some jazz fans may be turned off by the "For Lovers" label on a CD compilation—the British authors of The Penguin Guide to Jazz on CD found it damning that Verve released a "Coltrane for Lovers" collection. It doesn't bother me. Nor should it bother you in the instance of this Getz collection, because you don't have to be in love to realize this is the best Getz sampler there is.


Track Listing: Easy Living; How Long Has This Been Going On?; Spring is Here; For All We Know; My Old Flame; Lover Man (Oh Where Can You Be?); But Beautiful; Close Enough for Love; A Time for Love.

Personnel: Stan Getz: tenor saxophone; Lou Levy: piano; Victor Lewis: drums; Monty Budwig: bass; Cal Tjader: vibes; Bill Evans: piano; Percy Heath: bass; Eddie Duran; guitar; and others.

Title: Plays for Lovers | Year Released: 2006 | Record Label: Concord Music Group


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