Stan Getz Community

Remembering Stan...

Interview with Greg Fishman - Saxophone Journal in June 2007.


Stan Getz was a musical genius. He made everything seem so simple, but actually, it was an illusion. His music is extremely complex. Getz was the ultimate master of melodic improvisation. No matter how difficult the chord progression, Getz would have a melodic solution that sounded logical, lyrical and beautiful. His improvisations had such a strong structure that they were like songs unto themselves. Getz's logic in his use of theme and development is astounding. He was a master at the art of editing a musical idea down to its raw melodic essence. If you add a note to one of his solos, it crowds the phrase, yet if you take away a note, that phrase will feel incomplete. When I hear Getz, the purity and sincerity of his music and his ideas feel like they're reaching out to me.

One of the things I admire most about Getz is that he was constantly evolving musically. He managed to establish and maintain his unique musical identity, yet continued to push his own limits and expand his playing beyond his own comfort zone. For example, if you look at his recordings in ten year snapshots, in 1952, you've got his lyrical, yet bebop-influenced album, Stan Getz Plays. Ten years later, in 1962, he records Jazz Samba, the album that helped launch the bossa nova craze in the United States and around the world. Another decade later, he records Communications ’72, a fantastic and often overlooked album, on which Getz plays all Michel Legrand originals with strings and a vocal choir. Ten years after that, in 1982, he's back to the classic quartet format with Pure Getz, but with an even deeper rhythmic drive and emotional range.

In 1980, when I was thirteen years old, I heard the album Stan Getz Sits in with the Oscar Peterson Trio for the first time. It had a profound effect on me. I was inspired to immediately get my horn and try to figure out his solos. That was the beginning of a long and rewarding journey.

In 1990, I came home from what was just another day at college, and checked my answering machine, only to find that there was a message from Stan Getz! I was in a state of shock! He called because Jim Nadel had given him an audition tape of mine that I'd sent to Stanford University for one of their summer jazz workshops. I called Stan back and told him how his music had changed my life, and that I'd transcribed more than one hundred of his solos, and that I was coming out to see him play on June 8th, 1990 in Malibu, California at a fundraiser for Stanford.

I went to that concert in California, and sat about two feet from the bell of Stan's horn. His tone was unreal. It's indescribable. All I can say is that it was even better than on his recordings.

A week later I spoke with Stan on the phone, and he asked if I was going to hear him in New York at Carnegie Hall. I told him that I'd already bought a ticket and booked a flight. He told me that he'd put me on his personal guest list so that I could get backstage. I booked an early flight and arrived at Carnegie Hall early enough to hang out with Stan in his dressing room. I handed him a stack of his solos which I'd transcribed, and I was surprised that he immediately sat down and started to look at them. He was really impressed with them. I told him that I wanted to publish them, and he said that he'd help me.

The day after the concert, Stan was getting ready to leave for one of his final European tours. I told him that I'd love to study with him, and we set a date for later that year, after his tour was over. I was going to have two weeks worth of lessons with Stan!

In December, I flew out to California. I called Stan and he told me that he wanted to get together for the lessons, but that he was really tired from the tour, and to call the next day. I called for seven days in a row, and finally, he said that he was simply too weak to do the lessons. He told me that he didn't want me to see him when he was feeling that weak, and we agreed to postpone the lessons until the summer of 1991.

That conversation with Stan was to be my last. On June 6, 1991, I got the tragic news from my mother, who'd heard it on the radio: Stan Getz had passed away. I was in a state of shock. I had just graduated from DePaul University, and had been saving my money so that I could follow him to all of his gigs around the country.

After his death, I rededicated myself to studying his music. I realized that I could still have my lessons with Stan, but that they'd be through his recordings. I started to get beyond simply playing the notes of his solos, and started getting into analysis of his solos to try to understand the way in which he thought. The more I would tear apart a solo and reconstruct it, the more certain I was that Getz was truly a musical genius.

I also remembered that Stan and I were going to publish my transcriptions of his solos. I contacted Hal Leonard Publishing, and they were interested in putting them out. My first book of Stan Getz Solos was published in 1993. The book went on to sell very well, and Hal Leonard called me a few years later and asked if I was interested in writing a second book. I suggested doing not one, but two more books. I felt that Getz’s groundbreaking bossa nova recordings deserved an entire book, as did his recording of standards in the 1950’s. They agreed, and I wrote both books in a year of intense transcribing. I can't tell you how many nights of sleep I lost trying to decide if a note he played was to be considered a sixteenth note or simply a grace-note. I felt that it was so important to document his work accurately that I wanted every last detail to be as perfect as I could possibly make it. I know that Stan would be happy with those books. As I was transcribing his solos, I was in constant awe of the beauty of his music. Stan's music will always be a part of my life.

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Greg... this article is so insightful! Dad would have been "KVELLING" (SP!)

Thank you!
OMG.... Thanks for posting this Bev! And Greg if you ever read this... what an absolutely wonderful telling of Stan Getz stories.... so heartwarming and you can FEEL the appreciation you had for him! This is exactly what I meant when I said I looked forward to learning more about Stan in the new forum set up... PERFECT! I thought it was truly touching that you mentioned that you were still able to have those lessons with him as of course his music lives on.... I am only a listener, not a musician, but I too would agree wholeheartedly that he was a musical genious!

What a truly WONDERFUL POST!
This is the finest article and the article with most depth that I've ever read about Stan Getz and his music. This is written with so much respect, love, musical understanding and insight.
At last a person who knows what he's talking about when it comes to music and a musical genius.

Thank you so very very much for sharing Bev.
AND thanks to Greg Fishman for the GRAND article

With respect
All Things Stan, and so well written boy oh boy!! Thanks Bev for this wonderful post,the history and insight and compassion for all concerned was outstanding....

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