Stan Getz

East of the Sun: The West Coast Sessions

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The mainstream came to know this remarkable tenor sax player via bossa nova -- his unforgettable, breathy solo on "The Girl from Ipanema" propelled the song to number five in 1964 and to continued popularity to this very day, every bit as much as Astrud Gilberto's equally stunning, spare voice. But Stan Getz's involvement in this populist '60s craze actually displeased many a serious jazz enthusiast who'd admired his work in that field for more than two decades. After all, this 17-time winner of the Down Beat poll for top tenor saxophonist had already staked out a remarkable reputation, playing in the bands of such vaunted names as Stan Kenton, Jimmy Dorsey, Benny Goodman, and Woody Herman from 1944-1949, and then leading his own bands thereafter. This three-CD box, then, finds Getz in top form as a jazz soloist and bandleader. Recorded, as so much jazz was, in various off-the-cuff sessions from 1955-1957 -- although this box culls from different LPs such as West Coast Jazz, Stan Getz and the Cool Sounds, and The Steamer -- it still all fits together as one long, languid, bop-to-bluesy session. Fusion beckoned to many a talent of the time, but Getz nicely held his ground, insisting that long, wide-stretching solos always serve a well-grounded song, be it a composition by George and Ira Gershwin, Miles Davis, Jimmy Van Heusen, or himself. With an almost unparalleled sense of time and space, Getz fills it in no particular hurry, and his piano, trumpet, bass, and drums likewise seem inclined to be tasteful rather than showoff-ish virtuosity. The slow, quiet-afternoon melancholic stuff, such as "A Handful of Stars," are the real favorites. Like "Girl from Ipanema," these allow Getz to blow like the gentle lull before a storm or, as original pianist Lou Levy writes in the notes here 40 years later, like "a sound of an angel." But the man is a master of all the styles presented, and an overriding cool, calm, pleasant air nicely defines these spontaneous yet well-organized sessions. This box is a fitting legacy and a thorough overview of an inspired period in his prolific career (37 CDs and counting by Getz are available on Verve).

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