Stan Getz: I Can't Get Started

Stan Getz wasn’t exactly prolix, preferring to let his Selmer MarkVI do the talking for him. But on the occasions when he did speak, he revealed a dry, edgy wit. Paraphrasing a line from Tony Bennett’s signature tune, he tells the audience at the Montmarte Club, “I left my heart in Copenhagen,” eliciting a round of enthusiastic applause. Then he adds, “I said the same thing last night in Stockholm.” The Danes would forgive his teasing as he opened the next number with a languid, sultry intro, the bridge of “I Can’t Get Started,” setting up a hypnotic interpretation of the timeless ballad.

In this flawless performance the trio backs each note of his breathtaking solo with perfect understanding, the changes seemingly suspended in time and space as they transition seamlessly between twos and a relaxed walking swing. Then Getz demonstrates his generosity and respect by turning the rest of the number over to Kenny Barron, who delivers inspired, delicate piano effusions. The interconnectivity between Lewis, Reid and Barron comes close to telepathy, with punctuating bass and drums hanging on nearly every crystalline note, until a rubato ending gently settles the whole affair back on terra firma.

This is a prime example of why jazz should never lose its function as a live art. What you are hearing in this track is the spontaneous creation of a masterpiece by five highly evolved players. Yes, you heard right, five: one sax man, one pianist, one bassist, one drummer- and one living, breathing, appreciative audience. We must never forget the importance of this relationship.

July 13, 2009 · 0 comments


Art Blakey and the Jazz Messengers: I Can't Get Started

This fascinating version of the Duke/Gershwin standard is a somewhat rare departure from the classic hard-bop grooves that dominated the Jazz Messengers catalog. An inspired introduction featuring Cables on electric piano, Clarke on acoustic bass, and Shaw on trumpet is smooth and enjoyable. The most noteworthy aspect of this track, however, is Blakey's experimentation. He enters with a "Freedom Jazz Dance"-inspired Tony Williams groove at a faster tempo than the introduction, moves to a classic two-beat feel, and then slides into the signature Blakey groove. It is interesting to hear, but I would guess that Woody Shaw was (initially) a bit ill at ease. An atypical yet ultimately worthwhile performance.

April 16, 2008 · 0 comments


Sonny Rollins: I Can't Get Started

The only ballad – and one of the shortest tunes – that Rollins played on this historic first live-at-the- Vanguard recording session provides a good opportunity to appreciate Elvin Jones's usually underrated brushwork, and to revel in the way the tenor adapts his powerful, heavy tone to a slow tempo. Or rather adapts it to his way of playing, for Rollins keeps accelerating and slowing down his delivery as he improvises melodic phrases, giving "I Can't Get Started" an unusually dynamic twist. When the final stop chorus arrives, with its quotation of the classic "'Round Midnight" intro, the overall feeling is that the Colossus has reshaped Vernon Duke's standard according to his own taste.

January 28, 2008 · 0 comments


Lennie Tristano: I Can't Get Started (1946)

I rarely find this recording discussed in jazz circles or cited in the history books, but Gunther Schuller called special attention to it in his study The Swing Era, citing it as a landmark performance, and even comparing it to Louis Armstrong's "West End Blues" and Duke Ellington's "Cotton Tail." High praise, but Schuller is on the mark. If there is a jazz piano track from this period with a more advanced harmonic conception, I haven't heard it. There is hardly a bar in this recording that isn't interesting, and some parts are downright amazing. Listen to how the pianist reworks the bridge and admire the artistry. In later years, Tristano would adopt a highly linear style with more overt bebop mannerisms, but he could have constructed grand aural superstructures with just block chords, as this track makes eminently clear.

January 19, 2008 · 0 comments


Charles Mingus: I Can't Get Started

A definitive version of a favorite Mingus standard (and staple of his live repertoire), captured in performance at the Nonagon Art Gallery in Manhattan’s East Village. Explaining his affinity for the tune, Mingus told Nat Hentoff, “It applies to me.” His commanding solo, which begins after an abrupt tape edit, indicates that he knows and understands the material implicitly. John Handy, the other featured soloist, connects with it deeply, too. Their virtuoso flights and bravura suspensions reflect the lyric’s ironic complaint. They come on strong, effuse, emote, make strong cases, and maybe even overthink it. It’s not for lack of effort—or aesthetic achievement—that they can’t get started.

December 17, 2007 · 0 comments


Billie Holiday & Lester Young: I Can't Get Started

The collaborations between Billie Holiday and Lester Young still speak to us today -- and not just as historical documents. The individual personalities, the emotional presence of these two artists come across in the music -- which thus serves as enduring testimony to their ability to project their hearts and souls into the songs they recorded. Their influence on later popular music and jazz can hardly be over-stated. It is hard to imagine the direct, conversational style of singing mastered by Frank Sinatra, and passed on by him to so many others, if Lady Day had not come first. And the lyricism of the tenor sax, now taken for granted, owes more to Lester Young than to anyone else. Here they take a show tune from the Ziegfeld Follies of 1936 -- a cute lyric by Ira Gershwin, and a sentimental melody by Vernon Duke -- instill depths of feeling into it that went well beyond any precedent found on Broadway. With all due respect to the great (and underrated) Bunny Berigan, this is the defining performance of "I Can't Get Started."

December 09, 2007 · 0 comments


Bunny Berigan: I Can't Get Started

When Hollywood needed a hyperlink to the nostalgically seedy 1930s for Save the Tiger (1973) and Chinatown (1974), this track filled the bill. Ranking high among Swing Era trumpeters and even higher among jazz's legendary lushes, Bunny Berigan here displays both attributes, playing brilliantly and singing with a wistfulness achieved through years of marinating in bathtub gin. With Prohibition repealed, bootleg drinking's urgency had slackened to laid-back, law-abiding alcoholism. Bunny's slightly woozy vocal exudes just enough vapors to make us root for the deluded braggart and romantic flop of Ira Gershwin's lyric. Fine song; classic performance.

November 02, 2007 · 0 comments


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