Stan Getz – Stan Getz: The 1953-54 Clef/Norgran Studio Sessions – Mosaic

by | Jun 20, 2011 | SACD & Other Hi-Res Reviews | 0 comments

Stan Getz – Stan Getz: The 1953-54 Clef/Norgran Studio Sessions – Mosaic MRLP 3003 (4-180 gm audiophile LPs) ****½:

(Stan Getz, tenor sax; Bob Brookmeyer, valve trombone; John Williams and Jimmy Rowles, piano; Bill Crow, Teddy Kotick and Bob Whitlock, bass; Frank Isola,  Al Levitt, and Max Roach, drums. With Tony Fruscella, trumpet, and Bill Anthony, bass, on ” Blue Bells” and “Round Up Time” (1955))

Mosaic Records is known and well praised for their diligence in providing full discographies of their theme box sets. They help fill in the gaps of musicians’ work that has been spread out over many years or numerous labels. Completists love their attention to detail and their sound reproduction of older material. Mosaic finds the best sources of master tapes and have noted jazz writers write essays on the product presented.

In the case of early Stan Getz material, they have done their homework well by finding the original full-track mono masters (with only one exception, the 78rpm take of “Pot Luck.”) Using six 12-inch Clef and Norgran issues on LP (produced by Norman Granz, who later merged the labels into Verve Records), and one Clef 10-inch (The Artistry of Stan Getz), Mosaic has put together the complete 1953-1954 studio quintets of Stan Getz.

In 1953, Stan was only 25 years old, yet he had a fully-formed sound and tone that would continue with forays into bossa nova, bop, and big band sideman work. Said to have the feathery tone of Lester Young, Getz could hold his own with be-boppers of the day, but with a more restrained less frenetic style. He was referred affectionately as, “The Sound”, for his lyrical expressive skills. Prior to taking on a primarily leadership role, Stan was a star soloist with Jack Teagarden, Benny Goodman, and Woody Herman.

The early ’50s were a rough period for Getz as he began his nearly life-long involvement and fascination with heroin. Norman Granz stood by his artist throughout the trials and tribulations, which included jail time, and was rewarded by Stan’s most extended stay with any label. Prior to working with Granz, Getz recorded with Savoy, Prestige, and Roost.

After Jimmy Raney left Stan’s employment, Getz added Bob Brookmeyer to his group, which was a wise choice as Bob (though only 23 years old) was a cool-toned trombonist, and a composer and arranger that complimented Getz both in tone and style. Now in his 80s, Bob continues to write and play, still creating magic with his pen and valve trombone, presently leading larger ensembles throughout the world.

On your own, finding the 1953-54 Getz material in playable condition would be quite the chore. Witness the fact that the Interpretations of Stan Getz were issued over three LPs, and the Tenor Saxes material from 1954 featured various artists in a compilation. Only Stan Getz at the Shrine is readily available.

In inimitable Mosaic fashion, they enlisted aces Malcolm Addey to handle tape transfers and used Mark Wilder to do the mastering. This ensured a quality product, as both of these gentlemen are at the top of their professions.

As a bonus to fill out the set, Mosaic includes two tracks from a 1955 session in which the under-recorded trumpeter, Tony Fruscella, takes the place of Brookmeyer, who had gone on to work with Gerry Mulligan.

Right off the bat on the first record: “Have You Met Miss Jones,” it is readily apparent that Brookmyer and Getz are a great match. Their blend is seamless, and their tone together is mutually pleasing. It’s a ’50s West Coast cool sound which both relaxes and pleases the ear. “Erudtion” quickens the pace and Getz brings some bop credentials out, yet there is a clear tone that informs the listener that Stan can hold his own with modernists, yet is fully in the pocket. Brookmeyer matches Stan in intensity and pianist John Williams provides warm creative accompaniment, and Al Levitt’s stick work adds to the mood. “Cool Mix” is just that. “Rustic Romp” is a hoot, and Irving Berlin’s “Love and the Weather” swings in a cool fashion as Teddy Kotick and Frank Isola replace Bill Crow and Al Levitt.

As I listened intently to Side B, it became even more clear how impressive the acoustics are on this set. Sound mix is clear, the sound stage is full and impressive for the quintet. Drums are center stage but not obtrusive, and for the time period of these recordings I find no flaws. Kudos once again to Mosaic, as usual, for putting out a quality product with a good period photos in their booklet, and a well-thought-out essay from Ashley Kahn.

“Spring is Here” gives an opportunity to appreciate Teddy Kotick on bass, a favorite of Charlie Parker’s, who brings his bop credentials to this more cool toned material and prods the two leaders to up the ante. “Willow Weep for Me” really shows Stan’s already full formed lyrical skills, for which he is most known. The influence of Lester Young is there, yet Stan’s warm tone made him unique as a ballad player.

Other highlights from the sessions are two versions of Ellington’s “It Don’t Mean a Thing,” and the tracks from January 23, 1954, where Stan is the only horn and is joined by the always classy Jimmy Rowles on piano and the legendary Max Roach on drums. On “Nobody Else but Me” Rowles comps behind Stan and Roach’s’ light touch is just right for this tune. “I Hadn’t Anyone ‘Til You” gives Max a more prominent role on snare. Both of these tracks have nice alternative versions.

A bonus to round out this box set are “Blue Bells” and “Round Up Time” from the end of January 1955, where Tony Fruscella is added to replace Bob Brookmeyer. These two tunes fit in nicely as Fruscella’s soft tone, similar to early Chet Baker, is an easy substitute for Brookmyer’s valve trombone. Tony is a natural match for Getz and we are left wishing there were more meetings between these two horns.

Mosaic Records is only bringing 5000 copies of this audiophile quality 4-LP box set to the market. For completist fans of Stan Getz, and lovers of West Coast style jazz, a purchase of this beautifully packaged set is a wise investment for both its auditory pleasures, and as a way to fill in the gaps of your Stan Getz collection. Brookmeyer fans as well, would do well to snap up this box set to hear how simpatico Bob was as a mate for early Stan Getz recordings.
TrackList =

Record One:
Side A: Have You Met Miss Jones, Erudition, Cool Mix, Rustic Hop, Love and Weather
Side B: Spring is Here, Pot Luck, Willow Weep for Me, Crazy Rhythm, The Nearness of You

Record Two:
Side A: Minor Blues, Fascinating Rhythm, I Didn’t Know What Time it Was
Side B: Tangerine, It Don’t Mean a Thing, The Varsity Drag

Record Three:
Side A: Give Me the Simple Life, I’ll Remember April, Oh Jane Snavely
Side B: We’ll Be Together Again, Feather Merchant, Flamingo

Record Four:
Side A: It Don’t Mean a Thing (alt. version), Pot Luck, Blue Bells, Round Up Time
Side B: Nobody Else But Me, Down By the Sycamore Tree, I Hadn’t Anyone ‘Til You, With the Wind and Rain in Your Hair, Nobody Else But Me, I Hadn’t Anyone ‘Til You (alt. take)

– Jeff Krow

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