Woody Herman (with Stan Getz): Early Autumn
Woody Herman Orchestra
The Definitive Stan Getz (Verve 589950)
big band featuring Terry Gibbs (vibraphone).
Composed by Ralph Burns.
Recorded: Hollywood, December 30, 1948
Rating: 100/100 (learn more)
When asked about this solo years later, Getz noted that he didn't own copies of his old recordings, then added: "I don't remember what I played on it. . . . My music is something that's done and forgotten about." Yet this was the performance that created the first buzz of fame that would establish Getz as a name attraction in the jazz world. And if Getz didn't recall what he played on the date, many musicians and fans committed his phrases to memory. Ralph Burns's chart is a perfect vehicle for the tenorist, and the sax section is luminous even before Getz steps forward. But his solo is a perfectly poised statement, and an important milestone in the development of the cool jazz idiom.
Is Getz a Lester Young disciple? Certainly. A Lester clone? Not by a mile. No matter what you might have heard elsewhere, there is nothing in Prez's body of work quite like this performance. You could teach a classroom of six-year-olds how to distinguish between the two artists, and they would never make a mistake on a blindfold test. Even at 21 years of age, Getz had staked out his territory, and he would never relinquish it. It's not just his tone, a delectable concoction that never gets heavier than a Julia Chid meringue, but even more the freedom of his phrasing, which always makes clear that Getz is playing what he hears in his head, not what he worked on in the practice room, and in his case he hears deep and wondrous possibilities, some of which he shares with his audience. No surprise, then, that when Metronome published the results of its 1949 poll, the young Getz was atop the tenor sax rankings. And despite his assessment of a solo that was "done and forgotten," this one has no shortage of admirers more than sixty years after it was recorded. Mark my words: fans will still be listening sixty years hence.
Reviewer: Ted Gioia