LIVE IN PARIS / NOBLE: Cherokee. HAMMERSTEIN-KERN: All the Things You Are. DAVIS-RAMIREZ-SHERMAN: Lover Man. SOLAL: Special Club. MONK-WILLIAMS: ‘Round Midnight. HAMMERSTEIN-ROMBERG: Softly As in a Morning Sunrise. LAWRENCE-GROSS: Tenderly. DAMERON: The Squirrel. PARKER: Yardbird Suite. WHITING-MERCER: Too Marvelous for Words. BATTLE-DURHAM: Topsy. ARLEN-HARBURG: Over the Rainbow / Stan Getz, t-sax; Martial Solal, pno; Jimmy Gourley, gtr; Pierre Michelot, bs; Kenny Clarke, dm / Frémeaux & Associés FA 5730 (live: Paris, early January 1959)
Although Stan Getz was still polling well in down beat in 1959, the year he played this live gig at the Olympia Theater his career was kind of stuck in neutral. He was lucky to play here with three of the best jazz musicians then in Europe—pianist Martial Solal, who had already recorded a very interesting album with Sidney Bechet, Pierre Michelot, who had been Django Reinhardt’s most trusted bassist during the last phase of his career, and American expatriate drummer Kenny Clarke, a.k.a. “Klook,” the original bebop drummer of the early 1940s—but is surprisingly detached.
To a certain extent, the lineup was a strange one for Getz, particularly Clarke, who played in a fairly aggressive and energetic style. The man known as “The Sound” (short for “Long Island Sound”) was much more used to subtle drummers who used more brushes than sticks behind him, thus Klook’s extended solo in Cherokee may come as a surprise, even a shock, to those unfamiliar with his style. Clarke wasn’t about to turn into a West Coast player just because Getz was present: remember, he walked out on the Modern Jazz Quartet after just a few months because he thought their jazz too constrained and subtle.
Of course, Solal was an outstanding modern jazz pianist, not as outré as some of his American counterparts of the ;ate 1950s and early ‘60s, but far enough out there that he could feed Getz some fairly advanced chords to improvise on. Interestingly, Solal’s introduction to All the Things You Are is borrowed directly from Charles Mingus. Apparently, he had heard the record, as Mingus hadn’t yet played in France by this time. Guitarist Jimmy Gourley, a fine player if not the most imaginative, was much more of a musician who could blend with Getz. His style lay somewhere between Jim Hall and the more aggressive Charlie Byrd, not too dissimilar to that of Tal Farlow, who had played with Mingus in the famous Red Norvo Trio of the early 1950s.
That being said, Getz isn’t much fazed by the different beat that Clarke laid down. Following the pianist’s and guitarist’s leads, he weaves his way through each track with his customary restraint and ease. The liner notes claim that Getz was inspired to great heights by this particular band, but to my ears he just sounds like Stan Getz in the ‘50s, which is to say, good. He never really played poorly except when smothered by an overstuffed concert orchestra in the late 1960s, but that was another time and place. Solal, who solos on Lover Man, is clearly playing one of those jazz lounge bar pianos, the kind that sound like the upright in your church’s basement—a very dry tone, like a xylophone with a keyboard. Even so, his improvisations are excellent.
The band finally starts to jump in a cohesive way on Solal’s original, Special Club, and here he is really excellent despite his instrument’s condition. For whatever reason, Clarke plays much more subtly on this one, while Getz again sits it out. The tenor saxist returns for a nice, imaginative treatment of Thelonious Monk’s ‘Round Midnight, one of the finest things on this album. One thing I noticed is that, although he improvises well, Getz really doesn’t sound involved in anything. Perhaps he was doped up on heroin at the time, his and other jazz musicians’ drug of choice from the late 1940s through the mid-1960s. The only musician I’ve ever heard who still sounded great even when on smack was Chet Baker. That’s it. Everyone else, even Charlie Parker, Miles Davis and Bill Evans, suffered to some extent in quality when they were on dope. All of Getz’ solos are played at the same volume level, softly, with little or no inflection or energy, albeit with some interest. Softly As In a Morning Sunrise is a perfect example. The band takes it at a nice medium uptempo and Clarke gives it a nice kick (particularly behind Gourley’s solo), but Getz stays emotionally in first gear until the last chorus, when he suddenly and temporarily wakes up. Solal does a wonderful job on Tadd Dameron’s The Squirrel, and the band (including Getz) does a very nice job on Charlie Parker’s Yardbird Suite.
The best track on this album in terms of both musical invention and emotional drive is the surprising slow-blues treatment of Edgar Battle’s and Eddie Durham’s swing era standard, Topsy. Both Getz and Clarke sound great on this one, and their interaction is indeed special, despite the fact that Getz gets lost in the beginning and thus causes a false start.
This is clearly very rare Getz, and it’s certainly interesting to hear him play with Solal and especially Clarke, but for me it’s not an indispensable album. Get it if you want it.
—© 2018 Lynn René Bayley
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