Followup: Bev Getz’s Father

Bev GetzThe Stan Getz video posted here over the weekend drew an array of comments from Rifftides readers. One of them was from his daugher Bev, who took impassioned exception to praise for the late Don Maggin’s Getz biography. In response, I sent Ms. Getz a private message about the last time I spoke with her father. She asked if I would post the story.

I think it was in 1988 or ’89 that your dad played at one of Ken Poston’s West Coast Jazz celebrations. The concert was at a theater in Hermosa Beach. We got there early, and I wandered around for a while. In the parking lot behind the theater, I saw Stan sitting alone on a low cement barrier and went over to say hello.

“Who is it?” he said.

I told him. He focused those incredible blue eyes on me for several seconds, then said, “I think I owe you an apology.” He did, for something that happened more than two decades earlier. I accepted, we shook hands, and I continued my stroll.

Lou Levy
The next time I saw Lou Levy, which was often in those days, without resurrecting what the apology was for I told him of the encounter. Lou said, “Yeah, he’s been doing that a lot lately.” I know that toward the end Lou visited Stan regularly in Malibu. He cherished the friendship that began in their days with Woody Herman. He often mentioned it. I miss them both.

In return, Ms. Getz sent this, printed with her permission:

He really wasn’t a monster. Yes, he was a haunted soul, but the drugs and alcohol made him ugly. That ugliness wasn’t the ‘real’ Stan, revealed. His heart was truly good. I’ve seen chemicals change people in the most shocking ways. So sad.

Two days before he passed, Lou, Shorty Rogers and Johnny Mandel came to the house to see him. The three of Shorty Rogersthem stood in front of him with tears streaming down their faces. Dad looked like an Auschwitz victim at that point (the way that cancer can ravage a body) and he had basically lost his voice. I’ll never forget the way he looked at hisJohnny Mandel three friends. If I can put it into words, it would be something like…”What the hell are you guys crying about?? I’m not dead yet! Tell me some jokes! Talk about good times past! Cry at my funeral, but I don’t want to see your effin’ tears now”! I had to take them aside and ask them to please try and put on a brave face, for their friend’s sake, which they absolutely did!

This memory has never left me. As clear today as it was then, June 4, 1991. A Tuesday.

On her YouTube page, Ms. Getz presents a variety of videos featuring her father, including this 1969 appearance on French television by his quartet with Flora Purim.

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  1. says

    Thank you for sharing your story, Doug. It means a great deal to me. It shows that he had been convicted by his own past behavior and sincerely did want to right the wrongs, where the could. Sadly, the cancer took him before he could finish his ‘job’. I’ve heard from several people who he reached out to and made amends. It made a difference to them. That is what matters.

  2. says

    Stan Getz’ music has always been healing. I believe that anybody needing a healing message can receive one by listening to him play. Perhaps anyone still alive wishing for an apology should just put on one of Getz’ records – it’s all in there, the real Stan Getz.

  3. Nonie de Camilla says

    I think most people forget that Stan Getz from one day to another was immersed in a world of bohemian adults when he was fifteen years old (and fifteen years old in the 40’s!) And he had the sensibility of geniuses. That fact alone explains many of his behaviours as an adult. He must have been very scared, felt insecure and “diminished” by his lack of experience in the manly activities. It is easy to infer that he prematurely started to smoke and drink just to level things.

    Even though Getz was absolutely aware of the wonder of his sound, paradoxically, that insecurity of his teens never left him. He wanted so bad to show people how good he was. A tireless worker, extremely clever, he tried drugs when he was very young, convinced that these would give him a new dimension to his performances. Later, he used them to deal with the weariness caused by trips, live shows, making records and by being the leader of bands (from which he demanded not a inch less than excellence). He realized too late how dangerous was using drugs as a ‘walking stick’…

    In my mind there isn’t the slightest doubt that he was a decent and good-hearted man. I don’t need to read biographies: I simply observe his body language in the recorded live presentations, pay attention to the interviews he gave and, mostly listen to his music. There is the real Stan Getz. The rest is unimportant. A good musician can project many things: great technique, complete command of the instrument, excellence, lyricism, good taste, beauty, etc. However, there is a plus in Getz that makes him unique: he transmits tenderness, that rare feeling that can only be felt, and expressed, by good souls.

  4. al kaye says

    I agree with ben makinen. thank you for sharing the videos. I have many of the records.

  5. says

    The last time I saw Stan Getz was in the late 1980’s (1987 perhaps), when he was ‘Artist In Residence’ at Stanford.
    One sunny afternoon there was an open air Charity Event on the lawn. Stan Getz arrived in an open top car with the Manhattan Transfer and the assembled hordes of young people cheered and greeted them like a 5th Avenue ticker-tape parade and he acknowledged the cheers.
    As I watched it seemed surreal – like a ‘lifetime recognition’ dream ……
    As I recall, he didn’t play that day but introduced youngsters who did.

  6. Don Albert says

    I met Stan when he came to Johannesburg, South Africa. I went to the press conference held in the hotel’s lounge.

    Stan sat behind a table and each journalist came up and sat in front of him to ask questions most of which made him furious. I was furious and embarrassed at the questions put to him by uninformed journalists. That is what set me on the path to becoming a jazz journalist. Following are only two questions asked.

    Q: “Glenn Miller said Tex Beneke was the greatest tenor player in the world.”
    A: “Glenn Miller is dead.”

    Q: “What kind of trumpet do you play?”
    A: “The saxophone trumpet.”

    I waited till everyone was gone and Stan was sitting there with fire in his eye’s, and I was petrified to talk to him
    but I took a chance. I was shaking when I said may I ask just one question. “What” he said and I just blurted out “Who played lead on Four Brothers.” he shot back with “I did, sit down and talk to me.” That night my late wife and I took him and Monica for dinner. While he was in Johannesburg he often came to my home just to relax. He invited me to stay at his home when I was NY.

    I just don’t know how someone can be a bad person, who when they play a ballad with such emotion that it can make you cry. It happened to me in Holland when he played “Lush Life” and I just felt the tears running down my cheek.

    I liked Stan, he never ever did anything to me that was bad, and I loved his playing.

    There is always a CD of his in my car, and I still love the early quartets playing “Too Marvelous for Words” and “There’s a Small Hotel” etc.

    A bad guy? No, he just didn’t suffer fools. He was a perfectionist when it came to his music and he expected the same from his musicians and people he worked with.

    I miss Stan Getz

    • Terence Smith says

      Yes, Don, how could someone be a “bad person” when they play a ballad like that! I am going to dig out my “Stan Getz Gold: A Celebration Live at Montmartre”” and listen to the “Lush Life” Stan played for his surprise 50th birthday party, ASAP. In fact I am due to re-hear that entire perfect recorded evening.

      Your comments reminded me of Stan’s patient reverence for melody and meaningful notes, meaningful sound. While listening to “Desafinado,” Miles Davis once said:

      “…And I like Stan, because he has so much patience, the way he plays those melodies–other people can’t get nothing out of a song, but he can. Which takes a lot of imagination, that he has, that so many other people don’t have.”

      When you have dedicated as much patience so well as Getz did, maybe you haven’t time to suffer fools gladly.

    • says

      Thank you from the heart, Don! Your memories of my dad really brought him back for a few minutes! “The saxophone trumpet”! Priceless! Soooo him! I think your quote “A bad guy?” No, he just didn’t suffer fools”. Has to go hand in hand with Zoot’s “A nice buncha guys”! He truly didn’t have patience with ignorance. Unfortunately, that impatience helped contribute to the cantankerous persona.

      Again, Thank you for sharing your memories! Made my day!

  7. Peter Bergmann says

    Of all the encounters I had with musicians (not that many, just a few) the most rewarding were the ones when music was no topic, and though unmentioned, music was of course a constant issue and at the core of the conversation.

  8. David says

    My first experience hearing Getz live was at a small nightclub in the mid ‘70s. A guy in the audience started yelling out requests for some of Stan’s bossa hits, which he ignored. Finally Stan approached the mic and started berating the guy in a very strident voice: “Shut up you lousy, good-for-nothing, drunken bum,” etc. This went on for what felt like several minutes and most of the audience had shocked expressions on their faces. After the set, someone informed me that there would be a jam session at a nearby restaurant so I got directions and wandered over. About an hour later Stan and the heckler stumbled in with their arms over each others shoulders, looking very congenial.

    • says

      So, was the drunk possibly a hired “claqueur”, David? 😉

      Stan Getz, one of my personal heros. There was a time when I even tried to copy his vibrato on … the trumpet. Could prove it with a private tape, but it’s too embarrassing.

      Heard some really mean stories about the man, yes, but the explanations (not the excuses!) are quickly at hand: Drugs, alcohol, seemingly endless one-nighters, an all in all unstable “life”.

      We can be glad that there is this superior tenor sound on numerous albums, flattering your ears with silky lines, then, all of a sudden is it fiercely honking out of the depth of the tonal system, reminding you:

      “I don’t want to become stagnant. I can be a real stomping tenor man!” (Stan to Leonard Feather, quoted from the liners to the splendid LP-twofer Stan Getz – The Chick Corea/Bill Evans Sessions).

      I can sing along most of his solos on Getz/Gilberto. Every jazz student should do this, even when she/ he would sound “desafinado”. :)

  9. Bruce Meyer says

    Back in 1965 or thereabouts, I lived I rural Ohio, playing tenor sax in a band. I wanted so much to be a hipster instead of a farmer. My dad had to go to NYC for professional reasons so he stopped at a record store and picked up some random jazz albums for me, including Sweet Rain, which featured Corea and Gary Burton, I believe. Over the years I’ve played that LP as often as almost any others I own.

    Stan’s difficulties leaked thru the music press to me so that when I observed the life experiences of the jazz greats who died of drugs and that one string of Jimi-Janis-Jim Morrison, I was able to grasp that being a hipster wasn’t all glitz and glamour. Yet, there was a nice article in Downbeat from that era that spoke of Stan’s having “changed his ways,” with jogging and quitting the substances and tobacco, etc. I was greatly encouraged, at a distance.

    My best wishes, and my sincere thanks for Stan’s contribution to making the music he made, that brought me some happiness year after year.

    • Doug Ramsey says

      The rhythm section on that album is Corea, piano; Ron Carter, bass; Roy Haynes, drums. Burton plays vibes on other Getz albums and has had a long partnership with Corea.

      • Doug Ramsey says

        I goofed. As several Rifftides readers have pointed out, the drummer is Grady Tate. No excuse, just apologies.

  10. says

    The first time I heard Getz was on the Stan Getz at The Shrine album with Bob Brookmeyer. I loved his music ever since.

    The one and only time I ever heard him live in person was at Slugs in NYC in the 60s or 70s–on alto! He just walked in from the street and took the alto from Jackie McLean and started playing. Talk about a snapshot moment. What a night!

  11. Buddy Dearent says

    Just a short quote here from Boston jazz saxophonist Jimmy Derba who was a life long admirer of Stan’s playing. Once asked why he was so influenced by Stan he replied “I can’t help it, it’s such a beautiful way to play.” And indeed it is!

  12. says

    ..What wonderful stories I just read about Stan. I know Bev and Nonie, a little..There straight shooters,bright and lovely too..In regard to Don Albert’s comment about Stan, playing a ballad.. reminds me of the great lyricst Sammy Cahn, writing lyrics so beautiful,witty and hauting..having another side to him that his children, to this day never did understand who he was..This is not the case with Stan. The people who were close to him saw the Real Man…He had the will and courage to convict himself in his last years and was pardoned by those who loved him..Especially, his lovely daughter, Bev……