Stan Getz: Blood Count
Stan Getz (tenor sax)
Anniversary! (Verve 838769-2)
Composed by Billy Strayhorn.
Recorded: live at the Montmartre Club, Copenhagen, Denmark, July 6, 1987
Rating: 98/100 (learn more)
"Blood Count" was originally titled "Blue Cloud," to be the first part of a three-part piece that Strayhorn began writing for Duke Ellington before the composer's final hospitalization in 1967. Down to 80 pounds and fighting a losing battle with cancer, he finished the tune and retitled it "Blood Count" before sending it from his hospital room to Duke for a Carnegie Hall concert that March, as a feature for Johnny Hodges. It turned out to be Strayhorn's last composition before his death on May 31st of that year.
Stan Getz had not heard the classic Ellington-Hodges recording of "Blood Count" from August 1967, and had never played it until the Pure Getz session in 1982. Yet Getz outdid Hodges and pretty much "owned" the tune from that point on, also recording it on several other occasions for both audio and video releases. In May 1987, about two years after he had conquered his alcohol and drug addictions, Getz learned that he himself had cancer. "Blood Count" had thus taken on an added underlying significance when Getz performed it brilliantly two months later at the Montmartre Club, as heard here. After a rather pensive and tranquil opening interpretation of the theme, tinged with sadness and sympathetically backed by Barron's filigreed comping, Getz delivers an alluring extended run to launch his solo, followed by heartrending cries. A graceful arpeggio leads back to the melody, played this time with a controlled passion laced with resignation and bolstered by the chilling finality of the closing tag. As Getz said shortly before his death in 1991, "I think about Strayhorn when I play the song. You can hear him dying. When it's in a minor key, you can hear the man talking to God."
Reviewer: Scott Albin