Stan Getz Biography

American jazz saxophonist and composer
With his signature tone quality on the tenor saxophone, Getz introduced the bossa nova craze of the early 1960’s and influenced countless jazz musicians.

February 2, 1927; Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
June 6, 1991; Malibu, California
Also known as:
Stanley Gayetzky (birth name) Member of:
Thundering Herd Principal recordings
albums: All Star Series, 1946; The Brothers, 1949; The New Sounds, 1949; Prezervation, 1949; Quartets, 1949; Stan Getz and Tenor Sax Stars, 1949; Getz Age, 1950; Modern World, 1950; The Sounds of Stan Getz, 1950; Split Kick, 1950; Billie and Stan, 1951; Chamber Music, 1951; The Sound, 1951; Moonlight in Vermont, 1952; Stan Getz Plays, 1952; Diz and Getz, 1953 (with Dizzy Gillespie); Interpretations by the Stan Getz Quintet, Vol. 1, 1953; Interpretations by the Stan Getz Quintet, Vol. 2, 1953; Interpretations by the Stan Getz Quintet, Vol. 3, 1953; The Melodic Stan Getz, 1953; More West Coast Jazz with Stan Getz, 1953; Stan Getz ‘57, 1953; Stan Getz Plays Blues, 1953; Another Time, Another Place, 1954; Eloquence, 1954; Stan Getz and the Cool Sounds, 1954; For Musicians Only, 1956; Hamp and Getz, 1955 (with Lionel Hampton); Stan Getz Quintet, 1955; West Coast Jazz, 1955; The Steamer, 1956; Award Winner: Stan Getz, 1957; The Getz/J. J. Set 1957, 1957 (with J. J. Johnson); Getz Meets Mulligan in Hi-Fi, 1957 (with Gerry Mulligan); The Soft Swing, 1957; Stan Getz and Gerry Mulligan/Stan Getz and Oscar Peterson, 1957 (with Mulligan and Oscar Peterson); Stan Getz and the Oscar Peterson Trio, 1957 (with Peterson); Imported from Europe, 1958; Jazz Giants ‘58, 1958; Stan Getz with Cal Tjader, 1958; Stan Meets Chet, 1958 (with Chet Baker); Cool Velvet, 1960; Jazz Jamboree ‘60, 1960; Stan Getz at Large, Vol. 1, 1960; Stan Getz at Large, Vol. 2, 1960; Focus, 1961; Rhythms, 1961; Stan Getz and Bobby Brookmeyer, 1961; Big Band Bossa Nova, 1962; Jazz Samba, 1962 (with Charlie Byrd); Getz/Gilberto, 1963 (with Joao Gilberto); Jazz Samba Encore!, 1963 (with Luiz Bonfa); Reflections, 1963; Stan Getz with Guest Artist Laurindo Almeida, 1963; Chick Corea/Bill Evans Sessions, 1964 (with Chick Corea and Bill Evans); Stan Getz and Bill Evans, 1964; Look at Yesterday, 1965; Mickey One, 1965; Quartet in Paris, 1966; A Song After Sundown, 1966; Voices, 1966; What the World Needs Now: Stan Getz Plays Bacharach and David, 1966; Sweet Rain, 1967; Didn’t We, 1969; Marakesh Express, 1969; Change of Scenes, 1971; Communications ‘72, 1971; Dynasty, 1971; Captain Marvel, 1972; But Beautiful, 1974 (with Evans); The Best of Two Worlds, 1975 (with Gilberto); The Master, 1975; The Peacocks, 1975 (with Jimmy Rowles); Affinity, 1977; Another World, 1977; Children of the World, 1978; Forest Eyes, 1979; Stan Getz, 1979; Autumn Leaves, 1980; Billy Highstreet Samba, 1981; Blue Skies, 1982; Pure Getz, 1982; Line for Lyons, 1983 (with Baker); Poetry, 1983; Voyage, 1986; The Lyrical Stan Getz, 1988; Just Friends, 1989; Soul Eyes, 1989.

The Life
Stanley Getz was born in Philadelphia. Proficient on the harmonica, string bass, and alto saxophone, he decided to pursue a jazz career, declining a bassoon scholarship to Juilliard.

By age fifteen, Getz was playing saxophone at New York City’s Roseland Ballroom and touring with trombonist Jack Teagarden. After stints with Stan Kenton and Jimmy Dorsey, Getz recorded with Benny Goodman in 1945, performing his first solo. After Goodman fired him, he joined Woody Herman’s band, the Thundering Herd, and he was a chartermember of the famous Four Brothers saxophone section.

Getz moved to California, formed his own quintet, and released the successful Moonlight in Vermont.

During the 1950’s he recorded with jazz luminaries Chet Baker, Dizzy Gillespie, Count Basie, and Lionel Hampton. Getz spent the end of the decade in Denmark. In 1961 he collaborated with guitarist Charlie Byrd on Jazz Samba and with Joao Gilberto and Astrud Gilberto on Getz/Gilberto, a Grammy Award winner.

During the 1970’s Getz joined the jazz fusion movement, but he returned to his traditional bop roots. The 1980’s, in part, were spent as an artist-inresidence at Stanford University while he continued to record. In 1988 he was stricken with liver cancer and suffered a hemorrhage. Getz died in June, 1991, at his home in Malibu, California.

The Music
Like many renowned jazz musicians, Getz had a distinctive sound, flawless rhythm and technique, and creativity. From the 1940’s through the 1980’s, Getz crafted his style on the tenor saxophone with the utmost care. Like many of his jazz compatriots, he was trained in the ballroom dance bands and progressed to sharing the stages and recording studios with jazz giants. The instant popularity of bossa nova propelled him to new heights and opened up opportunities for further musical exploration with voices, string orchestras, and electricfusion jazz. Later in life, Getz regretted that he had never formally studied the arts of orchestration and composition. Consequently, he worked with composerswhoknewhowhe played and could arrange or write music to fit his needs and style. Getz usually studied the prepared score, then he proceeded to play strictly by ear.

“Early Autumn.”
It was during his time with Herman’s band, the Thundering Herd, that Getz launched his solo career and developed his unmistakable tone. He joined the second edition of the Thundering Herd in 1947 as a member of the Four Brothers, along with Serge Chaloff, Zoot Sims, and Herbie Steward. This saxophone section—consisting of three tenor and one baritone—created a sound quite different from the standard two alto, two tenor, and one baritone saxophone configuration of most big bands. Besides the namesake arrangement titled “Four Brothers,” the band had a certified hit with “Early Autumn.” Getz demonstrated an incomparable ability to romanticize a melody with his lyrical and mellow tone. His solo on “EarlyAutumn”established Getz as rising star.

Moonlight in Vermont.
When Getz left Herman’s orchestra, he moved toNewYork and formed his own quartet. Guitarist Johnny Smith invited him to a session for a quintet recording on the Roost label, released as Moonlight in Vermont. The titletrack version of the well-known standard sold not only to jazz aficionados but also to the general public.

It was voted Jazz Record of the Year by Down Beat magazine. With Smith’s simple and supportive chordal guitar and his masterful arrangements, Getz’s solos were at times technically incredible and at other times wispy and refined. The quality of performance is even more remarkable considering that Getz was addicted to heroin at the time.

Focus and Jazz Samba.
Getz’s recordings during the 1950’s were a mixture of various-size groups, and they included such artists as Gillespie, Horace Silver, Oscar Peterson, and others. Although he was well known and admired, Getz had not yet distinguished himself as an innovator. After he returned from Europe to America in 1961, he recorded the remarkable album Focus with strings.

Focus allowed Getz to improvise over the richly orchestrated string arrangements of Eddie Sauter.

The result was sensational. The next year, Getz and guitarist Charlie Byrd recorded the bossa novainspired Jazz Samba. The album included “Desafinado,” which won the Grammy Award for Best Jazz Performance. It was the first jazz album to attain a number-one ranking on the pop charts.

“The Girl from Ipanema,” from the album Getz/Gilberto, stayed ninety-six weeks on the charts, with the song and the album winning Grammy Awards. The union of Brazilian samba and American jazz catapulted Getz into the limelight, much to the delight of Verve Records. Bossa nova, like cool jazz, was a blend of colorful timbres, restrained techniques, and mellow tone qualities— with a Brazilian beat. The collaboration of Gilberto and Getz was a great success, both commercially and artistically.

Musical Legacy
As a boy, Getz practiced eight hours a day for two years in order to fulfill his dream of becoming a jazz saxophonist. He became a major figure in the cool jazz era of the 1950’s, and he popularized bossa nova-Brazilian jazz in the early 1960’s. His lush and romantic tone occupies a singular place in jazz history.

Others have tried, without success, to imitate his tone. Unfortunately, his lifelong battle with alcohol and heroin cut his career short. The Berklee School of Music in Boston honors Getz’s legacy by housing the Stan Getz Media Center and Library, made possible by a donation from the Herb Alpert Foundation. Eight thousand compact discs, tapes, laser discs, and CD-ROMS are stored there. ¶