Weekend Extra: Stan Getz’s Model Behavior

Getz clowningThere may have been times—no, there were times—when Stan Getz worked overtime to be unpleasant. Zoot Sims had his reasons for describing Getz as “an interesting bunch of guys.” It is not likely that Sims had in mind moments like those in this video. Rifftides reader Jeff Chang sent a tip about a film Getz made in 1969 in France. It turns out that his quartet was engaged to play background music for a fashion show. If you think that was an unusual gig for a major musician still riding the wave of popularity generated by his bossa nova hits, watch Getz and see how you think he felt about it. Be patient, please; a printed announcement in French precedes the fun and games.

Getz’s quartet with pianist Stanley Cowell, bassist Miroslav Vitous and drummer Jack DeJohnette was aGetz Laserlight short-lived group. In 1969 they recorded one superb album for the discount label Laserlight. Thirty years later, Verve reissued it.

Have a good weekend.

You can help assure that you do if you take this hint from Jim Wilke about a broadcast featuring an all-star group (term used advisedly) of west coast musicians:

Chuck Deardorf – Dave Peterson Group next on Jazz Northwest from 88.5, KPLU

A Seattle all-star group played this month’s Art of Jazz concert at The Seattle Art Museum. Co-led by Chuck Deardorf on bass and Dave Peterson on guitar, the group also includes Rich Cole on tenor sax, Bill Anschell, piano, and John Bishop on drums. Highlights from the concert will air on Jazz Northwest, 88.5 KPLU on Sunday, April 21 at 2 PM PDT and stream at kplu.org.

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  1. Charlton Price says

    Stanley’s Jekyll-Hyde spins were fully documented and insightfully analyzed in (alas, the late) Don Maggin’s Stan Getz: A Life in Jazz. In jazz history I believe there has been no one who played more like an angel and too often behaved more like a devil. Maggin explains, inter alia, how Getz’ superlative music-making helped him escape from his evil inner self.

      • says

        Re.” Miles any one?” from Jeffrey—took the thought right out of my Head. Back in the day, I had the dubious hohner of knowing Stan-Up close & personal–Hell, wer’e all tortured humans — some of us can handle it and change chicken S___ into chicken salad.

    • Red Sullivan says

      I dislike the Maggin book INTENSLEY, abhor it, actually. Mr. Getz was a tortured very human man, who suffered a lot (which, immediatley, unavoidably, inevitably, means those around him got it too – possibly the closer the worse), and who also finally seemed, through great effort, to achieve happiness late in life too – a great man, so!

      All the while he maintained possibly the single most outstandingly consistent level of excellence maybe in all of jazz (the only other, comparable for sheer consistencey of excellence, might be Benny Carter – Rollins, Coltrane, Miles all failed at various stages: Getz never did, not even once…) (Neither did Clifford: but he checked out at 26… you dig? Getz’s was an EPIC life).

      To my mind the Maggin book is gutter filthy. (And if you may seek to defend it as “the truth”, I believe that simply to be an irrelevance).

    • says

      “Stanley’s Jekyll-Hyde spins were fully documented and insightfully analyzed in (alas, the late) Don Maggin’s Stan Getz: A Life in Jazz. In jazz history I believe there has been no one who played more like an angel and too often behaved more like a devil. Maggin explains, inter alia, how Getz’ superlative music-making helped him escape from his evil inner self.”

      Really Mr Price? Did you personally know “Stanely”? Or do you base your educated analysis on the toilet tabloid sensationalized ‘writing’ (I use the word loosely) of Mr. Maggin? Mr Maggin also never met the subject. He spent countless hours interviewing relatives and friends (yes, “Stanley” did have friends!), but never managed to even remotely capture Stan Getz, the man. He had no problem (or compunction) in writing every dirty little detail he could dig up. Much of which was not accurate, as so much of ‘jazz folklore’ is simply that = “folklore”. Selling books was what Mr. Maggin’s goal was. He as much as admitted that to me, after the fact. After I had opened doors to family and friends for his “research”. As the old saying goes… “no good deed goes unpunished”.

      Did “Stanley” have a dark side? Absolutely! I wouldn’t go as far as to call his battles with depression “his evil inner self”, but he was known to be bad-tempered and act like an asshole! Difficult person to deal with? At times, absolutely. Demanding perfectionist? You bet. But “evil”?! Not even remotely. Name me one addict/alcoholic that behaved like a gentleman when using!

      Of course it distresses me to read inaccurate and demeaning words about my father. While I won’t always jump to his defense, there are instances, like this one, where sitting on my hands just won’t work. Trust me when I say, I knew him. I knew how difficult he could be and how his behavior could be nightmarish. I also knew the kind and gentle person he was, the man/father who was loving and thoughtful, who deeply loved his family and friends. Who when he got clean and sober, grieved and recoiled at his past behavior and wrongs he had committed. Who did make attempts to right those wrongs, where possible. He has been dead for 22 years this June 6. While I can understand how trash-talking people who are dead, with no voice to speak their own truths or clarifications is fun and perhaps titillating for the writer and the reader. When does the time come to speak the good? To remember a man who gave millions of smiles and good tears to the people who loved his music? Is there ever a time to have that aspect spoken of over and above the negative, ugly gossip? Sadly, it doesn’t seem so.

      One last clarification… Zoot’s quote was. “Stan? Yeah! Nice buncha guys”! Contrary to popular belief, Stan and Zoot and Al and Trane, and… etc., loved one another. Naturally there were contentious times between some as there are in any friendship, especially were drugs are involved. But they all loved and respected each other as men and musicians.

      Thanks for allowing me to add my 2 cents.

      • says

        Hi Bev –

        Thanks for your writing. I’m a tenor saxophonist and HUGE fan of your Dad.

        I was lucky enough to have an impromptu lesson with Stan backstage in the green room at Ann Arbor’s Hill Auditorium. He was gracious, very hip, and damn if his sound didn’t fill every corner of the fairly large room!

        Is there a better book on Stan than the one mentioned? I’m especially interested in his approach to playing, practicing, reeds, sound, tunes, etc., as well as the lifestyle issues. I’ve heard some conflicting reports about such matters and, as a lifer student of the tenor, I’m always seeking to expand my knowledge base.

        • says

          Hi Jeffrey,

          There aren’t any books that I would recommend with perhaps one exception. “Nobody Else But Me”, Dave Gelly. If I recall, it doesn’t speak about his equipment or practice habits, but it is fairly down to earth and accurate in most aspects.

          As far as his approach to playing. That would be a bit difficult for me to answer in a meaningful way, as I don’t play. I do however remember him talking about being in a meditative state (Alpha) when he was playing and to be in the present, always fresh and looking forward.

          As far as “lifestyle issues”…? Not really sure what you’re asking.There are MANY conflicting “Stories”! Can you clarify?

          As a kid he practiced for hours upon hours a day when living in the tenements in the Bronx. He practiced in the bathroom as he liked the acoustics! After that, all I can say is I never heard him practice. Ever. He would sometimes take the horn out of the case and play something that was swimming around in his head, but as far as scales, etc. Never, as far as I recall, except possibly when he was searching for that elusive “good” reed, and that was usually just before a performance. He used Vandoren Blue Box #4 and played on an Otto Link Slant Sig 4* or 5*. He had a couple of horns, but his favorite was the Selmer Mk VI which Emilio Lyons gold plated for him at some point.

          As far as his sound. I don’t think he knew exactly how he achieved it. He knew what he was aiming for, but as far as the mechanics, I don’t know if he knew precisely what he did. He used to say that he thought it was due to the shape of his oral cavity. Personally, I think it was probably a little more involved than that.

          Tunes he chose to play? If that is what you are asking, then I’d have to answer with one word. MELODY! That speaks for itself.

          Sounds like you had a very pleasant meeting with him. I’m always glad to hear that! Hope I’ve answered some of your questions sufficiently.

          • says

            Hi Bev –

            Thanks for the info! I’ve also heard that Stan used to play at the foot of the “Hollywood” sign, calling playing outside “God’s sound.” I love to play outside (I busk). It’s great NOT to have anything to interfere with the sound making its way through the air….

            I know Stan has said that, for sound, he “tried to take the reed out of it.” I heard this AFTER my meeting with him…. I assume he meant projecting the sound all the way through the horn and focusing on the vibration of the whole horn, not just the part closest to the embochure, bringing out the upper partials of the waveform envelopes, much like with flute. I think that’s why his tone was “multi-dimensional,” rather than merely opaque, translucent, etc.

            I also heard him say in an interview that his sound got “fuller” later in life…. This appears to be so. His sound on “People Time” is really big.

            As to the practicing, I practiced for zillions of hours in music school. Now, I find if I perform regularly enough, rote practicing can actually harm my playing and make it boring. Stan, having one of the all-time great melodic minds, apparently knew this as well!

            I also play a Selmer Mark VI (I bought it new in 1973…). It could use a gold-plating, but it’s fine the way it is. I saw Lew Tabackin recently; his Super Balanced Action is gold plated.

            As for reeds… forget it! Find a good one and it breaks!!!! The bane of the sax player.

            Thanks again for your thoughtful response!

    • Nonie de Camilla says

      It’s so boring to bump into people like you, Price… How dare you to speak so lightly about the “inner self” of a person you never met? The typical self assurance of the ignorant! Do yourself a favour and just keep quiet when you don’t know the matter enough to give your opinion.
      Thank you.

  2. says

    I love it! I didn’t know Stan well, but he was very nice and kind to me when I met him. This was later in life, around 1985, if I remember correctly. I love the expressions on his face here, and I can relate having done such “gigs” myself. At one time I thought he was going to do one of those wild, Jim Pepper type screams that I am fond of including in my playing!
    I never set out to imitate Stan Getz in any way. But I will always respect him and his playing!

    • says

      I thank you for your kind words about my father, Mr. Bergstrom! It is so rare to see only the positive remembered. I really appreciate it, as I know my father would. You are a man of elegance and class.

  3. KENNY HARRIS says

    My when I met Stan Getz story. I went to see Don Lamond at Birdland, he was playing with Stan’s Quartet. On one of the intermissions I was with Don and he called Stan over and introduced me. Stan said ‘Hello Kenny, excuse me.’ and walked away.

  4. Denis Ouellet says

    My father loved Stan Getz. I still remember the night he recorded on VHS tape the PBS program with Stan
    playing with the Boston Pops. My dad left us some time after that. Luckily he left me all of his music.
    So one day I converted to the appropriate format and uploaded to YouTube.

    In all his splendor “My Shining Hour”


    Love you, Stan