December 2, 2009
"TOO EVIL TO DIE"
Beginning in the late 1980s, there was a rather incredible rumor circulating around the jazz world—all of a sudden, Stan Getz was acting "nice." Up to that time, the jazz icon was generally regarded as being infamously callous and cold toward almost everybody, a personality issue no doubt related to his lifelong addictions. One famous lyricist who knew him well told me, "Stan plays all these tender love songs like he really cares, but he hurts people more than anybody." When the saxophonist was diagnosed with cancer, he famously said "I'm too evil to die." But as a result of that diagnosis, Getz started doing the 12 steps of Alcoholics Anonymous, and he reached the point where he needed to make amends to people he had wronged over the years. Such old acquaintances as the trumpeter Shorty Rogers started receiving caring, apologetic calls from Getz, who was determined to work the program and purge himself of his demons and the disease.
The seven Café Montmartre discs are a window into the turbulent soul of a great artist. As Gary Giddins observes in his splendid liner-note essay, the material consists of 24 different songs, which are fairly evenly divided between jazz standards that had begun life as pop songs ("East of the Sun" and "There Is No Greater Love" among them) and compositions by jazz musicians (such as Benny Golson's "Stablemates," "Whisper Not" and "I Remember Clifford"). Getz and Barron play one Broadway standard, "Surrey With the Fringe on Top," four times, but many other numbers, such as the semiclassical "Hushabye" and "Softly as in a Morning Sunrise," are heard only once.
Whether by accident or design, most of the pop-derived standards are in medium or up tempos—even the ballad "End of a Love Affair," famously done as a slow torch song by Billie Holiday and Frank Sinatra, is exuberantly extroverted here. Getz saves his more profoundly introspective moments for the jazz originals, particularly Thad Jones's "Yours and Mine."
Posted by Orrin Judd at December 2, 2009 6:24 AM