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Stan Getz: Soul Eyes

Robert Spencer By

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Stan Getz, ladies and gentlemen, Stan Getz. An improviser's improviser on the top of his game, never dropping the ball, never sweating, in total control of what he's doing at all times.

I reallyought to get out more, folks. You don't have to tell me about Jelly Roll or Satchmo or Duke, but Stan Getz, well, he's never been way up on my list. I mean, why not just play Lester Young records? But Lester wasn't around to record with pristine sound and an empathetic rhythm section, and anyway, Stan Getz is much much more than reheated Prez. It is little known but true that Mr. John Coltrane filled out a questionnaire for a jazz magazine in the 1950's, on which he listed as one of his prime influences — Mr. Stan Getz. That's right: Stan Getz, ladies and gentlemen.

Hear it here, on Kenny Barron's "Voyage," which opens the program, or Mal Waldron's "Soul Eyes," which Trane recorded twice. Of course, Stan's Soul Eyes is a live recording from 1989, so Stan had over 25 years by this time to pick up a Coltrane record or two, but we have the man's word that the influence didn't go that way. Stan's tone is rounder, richer, not as crystalline but just as sharp — with a glow rather than a blaze. Getz was already ill by the time of this live date, but he sounds just fine. With able and amiable 'comping from Barron on piano, Ray Drummond on bass (Yashuhito Mori signs up for three cuts), and Ben Riley on drums, Getz stands in a soulful, smoky spotlight. It must have been a great evening out.

Listen to Getz roaring on "Voyage," keening on Billy Strayhorn's "Blood Count," fooling around on "Stan's Blues," and romancing on "Hush-a-Bye." Who has better command of his instrument? Even at this late stage of the game he was inventive, surprising, imaginative — never at a loss, never grating. In his long career he probably played every standard there is, but here in 1989 still manages to sound committed, involved: fresh. Soul Eyes may not add any new revelations to jazz history or even to the Getz oeuvre, but it's a thoroughly well-executed performance from the beginning to the end. Here was a master who could grind it out night after night at a level only dreamed of by hundreds of lesser musicians. Here are a couple of those nights.


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