Stan Getz wasn't comfortable with the bossa nova. When he flew down to Washington, D.C., from New York in February 1962 with Verve producer Creed Taylor to record Jazz Samba,
he did it as a favor to Creed. Guitarist Charlie Byrd
needed a big name on the album to help give ita shot at the Billboard charts. Creed was right. When Jazz Samba
was released, the album went to No. 1 on the Billboard album chart, and Getz won the Grammy in 1963 for Best Jazz Performance for the Desafinado
Getz didn't even attend the Grammys; his wife Monica picked up the award for him.
In the early 1960s, Getz was one of the most visible and in-demand jazz tenor saxophonists. He had worked relentlessly since the 1940s to reach his new-found status as a jazz giant. He was just reaching a point where he could record whatever jazz albums he wanted with whomever he wished, a jazz musician's dream.
Getz dreaded pop. Increasingly self-conscious that his relaxed saxophone sound could be misinterpreted as laid back and that he might wind up in the same boat as cornetist and trumpeter Bobby Hackett, who had spent most of his later career recording movie themes and pop hits of the day backed by strings. As Getz's lucrative bossa nova workload increased with each successful album, he told Creed he wanted to record straight-up jazz in between the samba albums. Creed was fine with that.
But Getz's fate was sealed in April 1964. Following the release of Getz/Gilberto
, a perfect bossa nova album in every way and one of the most beautiful recordings in any genre, it won three Grammy Awards in 1965, including the much coveted Album of the Year and Song of the Year, for The Girl From Ipanema
. For the album, Creed had paired Getz with Antonio Carlos Jobim
(p) and Joao Gilberto
(g) along with Tommy Williams (b) and Milton Banana (d). Astrud Gilberto
, Joao's wife at the time, stepped in on a lark to sing The Girl From Ipanema
on, Getz would be better known for his samba recordings than any of his earlier jazz efforts. Of course, Getz's unease with the bossa nova didn't stop him from reuniting with Joao Gilberto several times over the years when he needed money. In fact, part of his reason for recording Jazz Samba
in 1962 and the bossa nova albums that followed was to pay off his IRS debts after skipping off to Denmark in the late 1950 to avoid back taxes.
One of those Getz-Gilberto meetings was The Best of Two Worlds
, recorded for Columbia in May 1975. When the album was released, Getz and Gilberto went out on tour. One of their stops was a week-long stay at Todd Barkan's Keystone Korner in San Francisco in May 1976. [Photo above of Todd Barkan in the 1970s]
Now, Resonance Records has made 13 tracks from the Keystone Korner sessions available for the first time on Getz/Gilberto '76,
which smartly features an abstract illustration by the late Olga Albizu, whose work graced the cover of Getz/Gilberto
in 1964. The new album features Joao Gilberto (vcl), acc by Stan Getz (ts), Joanne Brackeen (p), Clint Houston (b) and Billy Hart (d).
When I first listened to the new album, I must confess that I had a hard time adjusting to the music. My ear expected something different, something in the middle-range between Getz's dominant horn on the bottom and Gilberto's tissue-thin vocals and acoustic guitar playing on top. Then I put on the album early in the morning this week, around 4:30 a.m., when I began my day. In the pitch quiet, I totally fell in love with it.
What makes Getz/Gilberto '76
special is Gilberto's tender voice, which forces you to sit forward to hear it. The album is really Gilberto's, with Getz jumping in for solos. As a result, it's more of a Brazilian folk album, featuring the earthy, breathy vocal expressions of a bossa nova founding father. Gilberto sings passionately throughout in Portuguese. For kicks, I also played The Best of Two Worlds
. The new album, with its hushed intimacy and idling drama, is far superior in every way. Another gem from George Klabin and Fran Gala, co-produced by Zev Feldman and Todd Barkan.