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CD Review – Stan Getz Plays for Lovers

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When I was a kid during the sixties, I used to travel with my brother who was ten years older than me. We’d drive all over the Southwestern United States, the convertible top down on his bluish green Volkswagen Karmann Ghia, and the radio blasting popular tunes. It was on one of these trips that heard Stan Getz play bossa-nova saxophone behind Astrid Gilberto’s vocals on “The Girl from Ipanema”. I was automatically hooked to this little Latin melody and the tone of Getz’s horn stayed stuck inside my head for many years afterward.

Now nearly forty years later, Stan Getz is still a standout performer for me, and listening to his Plays for Lovers proved once again how versatile and influential Getz had been throughout his career. This compilation was originally recorded in the early sixties with an all-star assemblage of backing musicians including Bill Evans, Monty Budwig, Vince Guaraldi, Lou Levy and Cal Tjader.

Getz is alternately slow and smooth and upbeat in his approach throughout the album, and his backup band follows the grooves he establishes with tremendous ease. This is an album of standards, and Getz creates magical treatments of “How Long has This Been Going On”, “For All We Know”, “My Old Flame”, and “A Time for Love”. There are times when the supporting players ascend to whole different level of playing on these tunes, and Getz wisely inserts himself or draws back, staying true to the instincts which push the music to celestial heights. On a couple of numbers, Getz pulls out completely, giving Evans center stage on “Spring Is Here” and allotting the first part of “For All We Know” to Tjader’s enigmatic vibes. That Getz so easily subsumed his ability as a lead player showed he understood the delicate nature of an improvised session; that there are no stars while the music is being played, that the star is the beatific lines of melody and rhythm which consume both the players and their audience.

There are a few less than stellar tracks here, a couple of live pieces that are well played, but are among recordings that haven’t withstood the years too well. It’s a bit of a shame, because a live performance with active listeners heightens the on stage sensations and pumps inordinate amounts of creative adrenaline into the souls of the musicians. The sounds of tape erosion serve to obscure some of the finer elements of these performances and takes away from the total package.

However, it’s still a great pleasure to hear Getz at some of his finer moments. His death in 1991 left a huge void in the world of music, and lovers of jazz saxophone are having a difficult time finding the heir apparents of the legendary sax players. Here’s hoping Stan Getz Plays for Lovers inspires a few to come out and fill the key lights that shone upon this master.

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