Ask a Stan Getz fan to describe his Lester Young-influenced tenor sax playing, and the sort of words that one typically hears include sublime, caressing, gentle, lyrical, and even ethereal. Words like tough, hard, and aggressive usually don't come to mind -- that is, unless someone is describing his earliest recordings. In 1945 and 1946, Getz did in fact display a harder tone at times. But by the end of the '40s, he was the epitome of subtle, understated cool jazz. Spanning 1945-1949, The Complete Savoy Recordings takes a look at the saxman's early work and shows how much he evolved during the '40s. This 2002 release focuses on sessions from 1945, 1946, and 1949. The 1945 session finds an 18-year-old Getz being featured as a sideman by trombonist Kai Winding, while the 1946 session marked Getz's recording debut as a leader. And Getz is also the leader on the 1949 session, which unites him with two similar and equally Lester Young-minded tenor men: Zoot Sims and Al Cohn (both of whom played with Getz in Woody Herman's big band). It's safe to say that on the 1945 and 1946 sides, Getz was still finding his voice -- he had a strong command of his instrument, but his playing wasn't as distinctive or as personal as it would become a few years later. The Getz on the 1945 and 1946 material is, for the most part, a rugged, aggressive, hard-blowing bebopper who had only recently discovered Charlie Parker's innovations; the Getz heard on the 1949 date is the essence of cool jazz (which favored a kinder, gentler approach to bop changes). The Complete Savoy Recordings falls short of essential and isn't recommended to casual listeners, although jazz historians and hardcore Getz fans will find it to be a fascinating listen.
AllMusic Review by Alex Henderson