Our collective thirst for jazz from iconic players may be insatiable but recent efforts continue to go a long way toward satisfying those cravings, whether it be discoveries of unreleased Coltrane, Monk, Mingus, and now, the latest, saxophonist Stan Getz from 1961, before his breakout bossa nova period. These 15 tracks, spread over two discs and three LPs, are taken from one night at NYC’s Village Gate, professionally recorded and likely intended for release, but lost for 58 years and now rediscovered. The two sets are replicated in the same sequence herein. This was a relatively new quartet that didn’t stay together very long, featuring pianist Steve Kuhn, bassist John Neves, and drummer Roy Haynes. This was the unit Getz formed having recently returned from Europe and exploring a new more aggressive sound. Kuhn had recently finished with John Coltrane’s Quartet (prior to McCoy Tyner’s arrival) and Coltrane’s rising popularity at the time certainly influenced Getz’s new approach, which, in hindsight, we can now refer to as a “road not taken.” 1962 proved to be a breakout year for Getz with Jazz Samba followed in short order by Jazz Samba Encore (’63) and Getz/Gilberto (’64).
Kuhn was young at the time and still forming his own technique while veteran Roy Haynes had built a reputation as one of the most inventive drummers in jazz, a peer of Elvin Jones at this point. This package includes several pieces that Getz recorded in the ‘50s (including “When the Sun Comes Out,” “Like Someone in Love,” and “Spring Can Hang You Up the Most.” Yet, we also have the only known Getz recordings of “It’s Alright with Me” and “Yesterday’s Gardenias.” Getz is known mostly as a cool, smooth player but reveals a full emotional display here, especially on the up-temp choruses of “Airegin” and his emotive, tender reading in the ballad “Where Do You Go?” which opens the second disc. Interestingly, there is only one Getz penned piece, “Blues” in an album comprised of mostly standards and some iconic tunes from other tenor giants – “Airegin” (Sonny Rollins), “Impressions” (John Coltrane), and “Jumpin’ with Symphony Sid” (Lester Young) as well as Dizzy’s classic “Woody ‘N You” and Monk’s “52nd Street Theme.”
Another major attraction of these rediscovered packages are the copious historical notes provided within. We draw a few things from these, courtesy of jazz historian Bob Blumenthal. At the root of these sessions is a plyer not heard on the sessions. Unfortunately, the virtuosic bassist, Scott LaFaro, who had played with Getz in ’58, before Getz left for Europe, was the first person Getz contacted upon his return. LaFaro selected a rhythm section of the young fellow Bostonian Kuhn and drummer Pete LaRoca, both of whom had glowing resumes. This trio recorded “Airegin” with Getz in February although LaFaro insisted that LaRoca be replaced by Roy Haynes later. This quartet performed at Newport on July 3rd and on July 6th LaFaro perished in an automobile accident.
Less than two weeks later Getz was in the studio for the first Focus session and this is when Neves, from Herb Pomeroy’s quintet and big band, made his first appearance. Neves, like Haynes and Kuhn, was from Boston, and because he had played with Kuhn and Haynes separately, was a natural fit. While he wasn’t as daring as LaFaro, he’s spot-on in terms of rhythm and tone. Kuhn, during this formative period, relied on block chords and the harmonic influence of Bill Evans and in later years became a stalwart on the ECM label and continues to be a highly versatile, renowned pianist, composer and educator. Haynes went back with Getz to 1949 and ’50 and recorded Gigi Gryce’s “Wildwood” with him in 1951. Haynes’ drumming is clearly a highlight of these sessions, especially his dialogues with Getz in several places (i.e. “Blues”) as well as his one extended solo on “52nd Street Theme.” Haynes, at 94, is one of the living legends of jazz with a 70-year career in a wide range of styles ranging from swing and bebop to jazz fusion and avant-garde jazz. He has a highly expressive, personal style (“Snap Crackle” was a nickname given him in the 1950s).
This quartet was strong. Getz plays with more passion, energy, and creativity here than one typically associates with him. Nonetheless, this quarter disbanded by the end of the year and once Getz teamed with guitarist Charlie Byrd for Jazz Samba in February of ’62, even with the return of Kuhn later that year, the audience was primed to hear the bossa nova material and not this engaging bop and post-bop material. Fortunately, we get to hear it now with remarkable sound quality accompanied by its attendant history.