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News and Views '09/'10 # 9
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Allen Hall
MN Prince of Snark Darkness


Joined: 26 May 2004
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PostPosted: Mon Feb 15, 2010 12:23 pm    Post subject: News and Views '09/'10 # 9 Share topic on FB Add User to Ignore List Reply with quote

News and Views from the Hall LindyJazzMobile
‘09/’10 Installment # 9

DRIVE, DANCE, REPEAT

Table of Contents:
1. The Unique Music Talent Which was Stan Getz
2. Some mo’ Dancin’ in Austin
3. Coming Attractions

THE UNIQUE MUSICAL TALENT WHICH WAS STAN GETZ

I began writing this on February 2nd, Stan Getz’ birthday. Getz is not my most favorite jazz tenor saxophonist, but it is impossible to deny him a near-celestial position in jazz. He just about had the prettiest tone ever. It was clean and pure and seldom strained in the upper register of the horn. Getz was a lyrical player, he sang through his horn, and some might say he was the ONLY truly lyrical jazz tenor saxophonist. He created pretty improvisational melody. He had legendary musical memory. I once read a jazz musician’s remark, “Once Stan hears a tune, he never forgets it.” Indeed, his repertoire was immense as almost all of the the music he had ever heard was lodged indelibly in his musical mind. Getz had complete command of the tenor saxophone over its entire range. When near the bottom his, notes did not sound strident and guttural, and in the upper register, each note could be a glistening pearl of music he created with an open throat. No other jazz tenorist had the full range of emotional tone that Getz commanded. I am happy whenever I to hear Stan Getz play. He had a gorgeous rolling vibrato—so different from the flat prolonged notes played by other modernists on tenor. When asked, who is the perfect jazz tenor saxophonist? Getz replied, “One with Zoot’s time, Al’s ideas, and my technique.” Zoot Sims swung hard and relentlessly, Al Cohn was a veritable fount of unique and engaging musical ideas, and Stan Getz was masterful at making, what could be a balky instrument, do his bidding, and, seemingly, with little effort. In the opinion of many jazz musicians and critics, Getz was one of the most melodically creative stylists in the history of the jazz tenor saxophone. Along with that encomium, Getz was also a solid swinger
Getz could be a self-centered, even mean and selfish misanthrope, and accounts of this are legion, but that is for another forum, for, as hard as it may be to some people, to appreciate Getz the musician, you must disassociate that from Getz the man.
Getz, nee Stanley Gayetzky, was born in 1927 in Philadelphia, and died in 1991 in Malibu CA. He became a music prodigy from a musical family, and since Getz became working saxophonist in the Jack Teagarden band when he was 15 years old, his life in jazz began during the swing era, transcended the Bebop and modern jazz eras, and ended in an era of confused and pointless jazz. Aside from his fostering Bossa Nova rhythm in jazz, Getz was no style-setter, but this is not to demean his efforts to establish Bossa Nova in Jazz. That fetching rhythm persists to this day in jazz, and his recording of “Desifinado” won a Best Jazz Recording Performance in 1962 and “The Girl from Ipanema” won a singles Grammy in 1964 by beating out The Beatles’ “A Hard Day’s Night”. Imagine that, if you can?
Getz’ music could not be called derivative. His early influences were both brass and reed players, and he temporarily took many new jazz flavors, but he was always himself, even as his music changed while he changed as a person. He first became well known after his lovely laconic solo on the Woody Herman band recording of “Early Autumn”, when he was, a member of what was arguably the most famous big band reed section ever, the “Four Brothers”, composed of three tenors, Getz, Zoot Sims, Herbie Stewart/Al Cohn and baritonist, Serge Chaloff. The rich thick sound of that reed section playing the same melody line never fails to give me goose bumps. Many jazz fans could identify Getz on tenor after just a few notes, and as much as I have tried to intellectually understand why that is so, I remain perplexed, and, Indeed, he was hung with only one nickname “The Sound”. The tenor saxophone has been called a perfect jazz instrument for several reasons. Its range is centered close to the average range of the male human voice, and almost all tenorists are men, and the tenor saxophone, in combination with many different kinds of mouthpieces and reeds, can create many different sonorities, each one unique, and many quite personal. To my ear, Getz had a uniquely personal sound. For most of his life he played primarily from the middle of the middle register to the upper limits of the upper register, but toward the end of his life, using his words, “I got more ballsy”, meaning he started to play with a less aspirate (breathy) sound, and with more edge and more bravura in the lower register. Most of Getz’ performing and recording career was done as the leader of a jazz quartet. He once said “A good quartet is like a good conversation among friends interacting to each other’s ideas.” After around 1960, Jazz entered and left many abortive modes, but Getz remained primarily a “straight-ahead”* player all his life.

*”straight ahead” jazz is difficult to define, but easy to identify—it is the canon of compositions, and style of playing which has come to be the lingua franca of almost all Jazz jam-sessions, and is one of the most durable forms of jazz, as it allows combinations of jazz musicians who have never seen or heard one another to join and play together easily and creditably.

I was fortunate to once see Getz perform. It was in a theater in the Twin Cities, very near to the end of his life, and at a time when he surely already knew he had an inoperable liver tumor. Getz was one of the most accomplished ballad tenorists ever, but some ignorant jazz hicks in the theater clapped and cheered only whenever he honked a low B or B-flat. Getz seemed to become annoyed, and left the center of the lighted stage to light up a cigarette in the dark during a sideman’s solo, and when he returned, in what I believe was an obvious show of contempt, he dropped the cigarette on the stage and ground it out under his shoe. Some wags found this funny and laughed. He then finished the performance with a series of standard ballads, all unannounced save one, which I remember distinctly him introducing solemnly and slowly by saying, “I will now play “Blood Count”, the last ballad written by Billy Strayhorn.”

Getz has a number of recording which have become part of the crown jewels of jazz. They include several solos with the Woody Herman Orchestra, his memorable reading of “Moonlight in Vermont” with guitarist Johnny Smith, several Bossa Nova recordings, and his rendition of “Blood Count”. The Getz recording of “Blood Count” was playing on the boat when they poured Getz’ ashes out of the bell of his horn into the sea off Malibu.

SOME MO’ DANCIN’ IN AUSTIN

We’re in Austin for our last three days this winter, and I do mean “winter” with rain, sleet and snow forecast.
Tues. Feb 8. We made the free après-lesson practice dance at the Fed. Bill Borgida helped DJ, and we really liked the music. A good crowd of dancers attended, Oh! say 50.

Wed Feb 10. Rudy and I went Honky-tonkin’ at the “Broken Spoke” a quintessential Tex-ass Daynce-hawl (note proper pronunciation), to do some C/W and Swing dance to “Dale Watson and his Lone Stars”. They played less two-stepable and more swingable music than we expected. Rudy clogged to a number @ 285 BPM, and this prompted Dale to blow her a kiss when we left. We both got good and sweaty. The band plays short numbers with little break between numbers, and they do it non-stop for hours and hours without a pee-break while consuming beer in heroic quantities. How do day do dat? Dale has engaging stage presence, a gorgeous baritone voice and he knows how to use it. He swings hard on guitar and the rest of the band; steel guitar, bass, violin and drums are all first-rate, with the steel player at least, world-class, and maybe universe-class. This is the most entertaining C/W band I have ever seen. Their winter tour took them to Minneapolis’ Lee Liquor Lounge, and so, we asked the band how they found the weather there. They told us “The weather was great in Minneapolis, but we like to froze to death in Nashville.”

Thurs. Feb 11. Sadly, we made our last Fed dance this winter. It was a Pre-Valentines’ Day live music event. Playing was “Aunt Ruby’s Sweet Jazz Babies”, a trad. jazz band of three horns (trumpet, trombone, reeds) and three rhythm, (piano, bass, guitar). Their book is so fine, so too are the musicians, but the tempos were a bit taxing and the numbers a bit long. BUT HEY! When music is good, I can cut yards and yards of slack. Big crowd (approx. 150) considering it was the worst damned weather ever us’ns has seen here in south Texas. There was free punch, choc chip cookies, Hershey kisses, pastries and Gummie Bears, plus a ton of fine leads and follows to cavort with. Rudy got her a birthday jam dance and the event raised $500 for Red Cross aid to Haiti. I am so gratified to see this happen, and I wish every Lindy Hop scene would adopt and help a worthy charity. We are so fortunate to share this dance, so we should share our good fortune by helping those who are less fortunate.

COMING ATTRACTIONS
1. Lindy Hopping in Dallas/Fort Worth
2. Jitterbug Jam in Fort Worth
3. A Profile of another Jazz Tenor Saxophonist

Allen Hall, Lindy Hopper
February 14, 2010, in frigid Dallas with snow drifts piled up here and there.
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