Unjustly ignored in favor of his bossa nova and hard bop discs, Stan Getz's records with strings ideally pair the saxophonist's clear tone and impeccable phrasing with the equally streamlined and multi-textured sound of a string orchestra. Granted, this marriage only works if the strings aren't bogged down by the kind of cloying charts that littered many pop records from the '40s and '50s. On Compact Jazz: Stan Getz With Strings, this scenario does crop up, thankfully only on the few selections from the Cool Velvet album like "Goodbye" and Benny Golson's "Whisper Not." While Getz's quality solos and the strong material prevent these performances from being a wash, one wonders what gems they could have been in the hands of a more progressive arranger.
The balance is more than redressed by Michel Legrand's tasteful and subtle arrangements for "Nursery Rhymes for All God's Children" and Johnny Pate's fine charts on "I Remember Clifford" and "Heartstrings." Here and on many other of the collection's top tracks, Getz responds in kind to the superior backdrops, producing inspired solos while interacting with the fertile musical surroundings. Other highlights include "Knight Rider" and "I Remember When" from the celebrated Focus album (Getz's collaboration with arranger Eddie Sauter), as well as "Nica's Dream" and Johnny Mandel's "I Want to Live" from Voices. While these last two cuts don't actually have strings, the inventive, hand-in-glove choral charts by Claus Ogermann more than match the best string parts here; adding to the overall appeal of these songs are some fine Brazilian rhythms laid down by pianist Herbie Hancock, guitarist Jim Hall, bassist Ron Carter, and especially drummer Grady Tate. Those not familiar with this side of Stan Getz should do themselves a favor and pick up this very enjoyable collection. Afterward, anyone craving more should be sure to get the Focus album too.