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Stan Getz: I'm Gonna Blow the Walls Down

Stan Getz: I'm Gonna Blow the Walls Down
Bob Kenselaar By

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I play music for people. I don’t play for the masses. I play for one person at a time.
[The music that Stan Getz made over the years was consistently moving and powerful. But he was probably putting me on a little when he said he was going to "blow the walls down" in New York for a series of shows early in 1979. When someone gives you a headline like that, though, you go with it. He was a little more straightforward later in the interview when he said, "I'm a thoughtful player. I don't believe in blasting music."]

"Some people get into music because they want to become famous," says jazz tenor saxophonist Stan Getz, "and some want to get rich. All my life I've just wanted to play it. I never really set out to be a band leader. I was sort of catapulted into it by being on a record that made it and winning the Down Beat poll.

"You know why I play music? I play music for people. I don't play for the masses. I play for one person at time. And for me to play in New York City, for my people, makes me deliriously excited. I'm gonna blow the walls down for my people."

If his recent performances at the Bottom Line and Storytowne are any indication, Getz will have no problem with his promise to knock out the hometown folks this week at the Other End. But, come to think of it, Getz has almost always enraptured music fans, ever since that first big record, Early Autumn," recorded in 1948 when he was a member of the famous "Four Brothers" sax section of the Woody Herman band.

Getz has been nicknamed "The Sound" because of his pure, warm tone, and once dubbed "Stanley the Steamer" by pianist Oscar Peterson for his masterful technique and ability to swing. John Coltrane once remarked in admiration of Getz, "We'd all play like that if we could, " and Jimmy Carter has been quoted as saying "It's almost worth getting elected president to have a concert done for you by Stan Getz." In the history of the tenor saxophone, few innovators have been more melodically creative than Stan Getz.

Getz had an early start in the music business; at 15 he was a member of Jack Teagarden's band. Teagarden served as a father figure in more ways than one—he was made Getz's official guardian when truancy officials tried to send Stan back to school. By the time he was 19, Getz had played with Phil Harris, Stan Kenton, Jimmy Dorsey, and Benny Goodman. Along with Teagarden, Goodman had a profound influence on Getz, but no one came closer to serving as his musical hero than the great tenor saxophonist Lester Young.

Regarded my many fans as the most outstanding tenor sax players of the 1950s, Getz seemed to have already reached his peak in the jazz world, when suddenly and surpassingly he hit it big with the general public again in the early '60s. With "The Girl from Ipanema," "Desafinado," and other bossa-nova tunes, his records sold millions—and it's said he single-handedly took MGM Records out of the red.

The past decade has been an important one for Getz, too. As Bob Blumenthal wrote in Rolling Stone, "He has acted as an unacknowledged godfather of crossover—both the Gary Burton Quartet and Chick Corea's Return to Forever germinated while their members worked in Getz's rhythm sections." Burton was featured on Getz Au Go Go and Getz/Gilberto #2; he and bassist Steve Swallow toured together with the saxophonist in the '60s. And Corea appeared on Getz's Captain Marvel, recorded in 1972, together with Stanley Clarke and Airto Moreira.

Getz has always managed to have an excellent back-up band. His 1977 album, Another World (Columbia), features Andy LaVerne on piano, Mike Richmond on bass, Billy Hart on drums, and Efrain Toro on percussion, and the recording includes original compositions by both Laverne and Richmond.

Jazz in the Aquarian Age: Aside from Another World, you've just finished recording another new album, this time with pianist and composer Lalo Schrifrin.

Stan Getz: Yes, and it's nice. It was done in 12 hours—eight tunes in 12 hours of recording time. Brand new music—the band hadn't seen any of it. Two of my men are on it, Andy Laverne and Victor Jones, my new drummer, plus synthesizers, two guitars, and a whole batter of percussionists. It really sounds like a big band. Some people may think that the record came out sounding slightly commercial, but it's so good musically that I don't feel I have egg on my face. I would never touch anything commercial. I'm just not built that way.

JAA: Of the records you have recently produced, Peacocks (Columbia), featuring Jimmy Rowles together with you, is a real standout.

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