October 8, 2017


Stan Getz - East of the Sun: The West Coast Sessions - The Ted Gioia Notes (Ted Gioia, Jazz Profiles)

Getz gravitated to the West Coast in his early career At age sixteen, he traveled to Los Angeles while still with Teagarden. He returned to California as an 18-year-old bandleader in 1945, leading a trio at the Swing Club in Hollywood, but he soon left to go on the road with Benny Goodman. He returned again some time later and parlayed a gig at a Mexican ballroom into a celebrated stint with Herman.

At Pete Pontrelli's Spanish Ballroom, the unlikely staging ground for this movement, Getz participated in the development of a completely new jazz style, one that came to be known as the "Four Brothers' sound". The band's repertoire on this gig consisted primarily of stock arrangements of Mexican and Spanish tunes, supplemented by an occasional jazz chart. But arranger Gene Roland was working on a new way of voicing the sax section, which Jimmy Giuffre took and refined further for the Herman band. The result was a lightly swinging ensemble featuring three tenor and one baritone saxophones -- with Getz helping to recreate the sound from Pontrelli's in his new role as a Herman sideman. The recording of "Four Brothers," from the close of 1947, exhilarated listeners -- so much so that jazz fans were soon calling this edition of the Herman orchestra the "Four Brothers band".

By this time. Getz had developed the translucent tenor tone and softly swinging style that gave an airy lightness to the Four Brothers' sound and would distinguish his mature work. Getz's debt to Lester Young in this regard has often been cited, and Getz was the first to admit he admired the older tenor saxophonist. Yet Getz brought a more overtly modernist sensibility to his playing that sharply distinguished it from Young's. Although Getz was never an ardent bebopper, he had listened carefully to Charlie Parker and brought a deep understanding of modern jazz into his own, cooler style.

This influence is especially marked on these West Coast sessions, where Getz draws uncharacteristic inspiration from bop-inflected tunes, such as Gillespie's A Night in Tunisia and Woody 'n' You, and offers a tour de force solo on S-h-i-n-e. These progressive leanings were evident throughout Getz's career, as seen by his constant use of young sidemen with new musical ideas. One recalls with admiration how, more than a decade after these sides, Getz was careening over Phrygian scales and navigating through some of Chick Corea's most complex material on another Verve release, the seminal Sweet Rain. On that record he showed a daring unmatched by any other Young disciple from the postwar years. Or listen to another Verve outing, the justly celebrated Focus, which finds Getz engaging in a marvelously intricate dialogue with a string section. The claim that Getz merely commercialized a variant of the Young sound falls to the ground after even the most casual listening to these recordings.

But what Getz did learn from Young was his essentially melodic approach to improvisation. Throughout most of the history of jazz, the prevailing approach to the tenor sax has stressed the harmonic possibilities of the instrument. Substitute changes, intricate cadences, unusual modes that imply equally exotic harmonies -- a range of techniques has been used in the paradoxical attempt to extract a chordal texture from this inherently monophonic instrument. Getz, like Young, never got caught up in this quixotic pursuit. Instead both adopted an unabashedly linear approach, unapologetic in its lyricism There was an almost brutal honesty in this style. No shiny ornaments were hung out to distract attention from its melodic core.

Posted by at October 8, 2017 5:19 PM