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Stan Getz in L.A.: 1953 and '55

Screen Shot 2016-10-25 at 8.39.59 PMIn April 1953, Stan Getz was in New York recording for Norman Granz's Clef label. He was joined by Bob Brookmeyer on valve trombone, John Williams on piano, Bill Crow on bass and Al Levitt on drums. This group was a revamped version of the Stan Getz Quintet formed after guitarist Jimmy Raney left the group in December 1952. According to Donald Maggin's Stan Getz: A Life in Jazz (1996), Raney's departure was over Getz's escalating drug habit and the paranoia, anxiety and shady characters that came with it.

After the new quintet recorded for Clef, Getz left for California. According to interviews at the time, Getz went West determined to recruit Gerry Mulligan and Chet Baker and bring them back to New York to join Brookmeyer and form a pianoless sextet.

When Getz arrived in California in May, he gigged at the Lighthouse in Hermosa Beach with the Lighthouse All-Stars, a revolving combo of top jazz studio musicians. In the case of his May 31 appearance at the club, the band featured Stan Getz and Bob Cooper (ts), Jimmy Giuffre (bar), Teddy Charles (vib), Russ Freeman (p), Howard Rumsey (b) and Shelly Manne (d). Getz also performed fronting just the trio segment of this group. (East-coaster Teddy Charles was in Los Angeles to produce records for Prestige at the time.)

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Getz also played later that summer at the Lighthouse with Shorty Rogers and Maynard Ferguson (tp), Milt Bernhart (tb), Jimmy Giuffre and Bob Cooper (ts), Frank Patchen (p), Howard Rumsey (b) and Shelly Manne (d). On some of these dates, Hampton Hawes played piano instead of Patchen.

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The sound of Getz at the beachside club in 1953 with these groups is captivating. The action for the ear is between Getz and pianist Russ Freeman (above), and between Getz and Patchen and Hawes. There was something synergistic about Getz and his pianists. As you listen to the '53 recordings at the Lighthouse, it seems as if nothing else mattered to Getz except what his pianists were playing. All three were West Coast keyboardists with different punctuating styles. Freeman played with a cool bop sensibility and beautiful chord voicings while Hawes had a harder bop attack and Patchen was a Bud Powell disciple. The competitive nature and ambition in the playing and exchanges remain remarkable.

In July and August 1953, Getz and his quintet (Getz, Brookmeyer, pianist John Williams, bassist Teddy Kotick and drummer Frank Isola) recorded in L.A. for Granz on a 10-inch album called Interpretations. But by Labor Day, the Stan Getz Quintet's bookings slowed considerably, and the saxophonist left the group to go on tour with Stan Kenton as the featured soloist.

It's unclear why Getz abandoned his quest to form a pianoless sextet. He sounded great playing with great pianists. It could have been that money was driving his choices or that neither Mulligan nor Baker felt the need to give up what they had in L.A. for Getz's East Coast dream.

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Interestingly, a year later, Mulligan turned Getz's idea into a reality, forming a pianoless sextet with Broomeyer, Zoot Sims and trumpeter Jon Eardley with bassist Bill Crow and drummer Dave Bailey (all above). In the summer of '53, Getz had other things on his mind.

JazzWax tracks: You'll find the music in this post on Stan Getz and the Lighthouse All-Stars here. The second CD in the set features Getz at the Lighthouse in 1955.

JazzWax clips: Here's I Only Have Eyes for You with Getz, Russ Freeman (p), Howard Rumsey (b), Shelly Manne (d) in May '53...

I Only Have Eyes for You

Here's Topsy featuring Stan Getz and Bob Cooper (ts), Jimmy Giuffre (bs), Teddy Charles (vib), Russ Freeman (p), Howard Rumsey (b) and Shelly Manne (drums)...

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