December 2001

Stan Getz - The Final Concert Recording
Eagle Jazz CD 83522
Released: 2001

by John Crossett

Musical Performance ****
Recording Quality ***1/2
Overall Enjoyment ****

[Reviewed on CD]Wouldn’t it be great to be able to travel back in time and catch one of the all-time greats of jazz at his absolute best? What would it be worth? Thanks to the efforts of Eagle Jazz, you can do it for the price of this CD. One painless payment and it’s instantly July, 1990 again, and you’re at Munich's Philharmonic Hall listening to Stan Getz in what is, lamentably, his final live concert recording.

The Final Concert Recording is a chance to hear the tenor sax voice of one of the undisputed masters of that instrument. Backed by Kenny Barron on piano, Alex Blake on acoustic and electric bass, Terri Lyne Carrington on drums, and Eddie Del Barrio and/or Frank Zottoli on synths, Getz blows as though there is no tomorrow (which was almost literally true -- 11 months after this was recorded, he succumbed to liver cancer). Yet Getz, was in fine form and his unmistakable tone is very much in evidence. He plays over the electric tunes as unrestrainedly as the all-acoustic tunes, but don’t for a minute think that this is typical "Fusak," because you couldn’t be more wrong. As the (admittedly skimpy) liner notes illustrate, these songs "placed the saxophonist in a setting similar to that of [Getz's] 1961 masterpiece Focus", an album on which he "soloed over themeless string and rhythm section backdrops." The difference here is that, instead of an orchestra, the synthesizers supply the strings sounds. Still, Kenny Barron is quoted as saying, "I don’t know if Getz was passionate about these songs, but he plays passionately". Amen, brother.

Getz, who came to prominence during his days as one of the "Four Brothers" of the Woody Herman orchestra in the 1940s, will always be compared to his fellow tenor in that renowned group, Zoot Sims. But to me, there is no comparison. Where as Sims tenor style can be likened to a big, warm, wet kiss, Getz’s was much more of a quick peck on the cheek. He darts in and out, lightly traversing the melody, gently moving it in different directions, yet, seemingly never straying too far from it. It’s a rare individual who can improvise at will, yet Getz’s can and did, and does so here.

Eagle Jazz is a new label to me, so I was interested in just what kind of a sonic job they would/could do with material that has languished for the over ten years that have elapsed since Getz passed away. There is no mention in the notes of how, where, and by whom the mastering job is done, so one can’t draw any preconceived conclusions before listening.