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Chris Ingham Pays Tribute To Stan Getz

by Robin Kidson



Stan Getz



Some months ago, a friend of mine gave me a CD by the Chris Ingham Quartet called Dudley. It was a tribute to Dudley Moore and not only was it an impressive piece of music making in its own right but also served as a reminder of how talented Dudley Moore was as both a musician and a composer. It ended up as one of my most played CDs last summer.

Chris Ingham has now turned his attention to another great jazzman of the sixties and seventies, saxophonist Stan Getz. He has recently released a CD called Stan on which he and his quartet play twelve pieces from Getz’s extensive repertoire.

When I first got interested in jazz as an adolescent boy in the mid-nineteen sixties, Stan Getz was one of the music’s biggest names. He was also briefly something of a pop star following his collaborations with Brazilian musicians which brought the bossa nova to the wider world. In particular, The Girl From Ipanema, on which Getz’s sax accompanies singer Astrud Gilberto, became a huge hit. Of course, any sort of commercial success is anathema to some jazz purists and Getz struggled for a while, post Ipanema, to retrieve some jazz cred. amongst the cognoscenti. That he eventually succeeded says something for how talented and compelling a musician he was.

Stan Getz was born in Philadelphia in 1927. His paternal grandparents were from London and emigrated to the United States in 1913. During the Depression, the family moved from Philadelphia to New York City which is where Getz was educated and where Stan Getzhe first started learning a musical instrument. He began a professional career when he was only 16, and he first came to attention playing with Woody Herman’s band from 1947 to 1949.

After leaving Woody Herman, he mainly worked with small groups throughout the nineteen fifties, steadily building a formidable reputation. His cool, light tone, heavily influenced by Lester Young, was widely admired. The fifties also brought various personal problems, including issues with drugs and drink, which partly explains why he spent periods living and working in Europe at this time.

In 1961, Getz teamed up with composer and arranger, Eddie Sauter in New York and they recorded the tracks later released as the album, Focus. This has come to be seen as Getz’s (and Sauter’s) finest hour – Getz himself said that it was his favourite album. Focus is made up of seven Sauter compositions which Getz plays with a full string orchestra. The pieces are often complex with echoes of classical composers such as Béla Bartók. Focus is arguably one of the most successful attempts ever to integrate jazz with strings.



Sauter, Getz and the orchestra playing Once Upon a Time, one of the tracks on Focus.





And then came the bossa nova. In the early sixties, Getz recorded a number of albums with Brazilian musicians and composers such as Antonio Carlos Jobim and João Gilberto. The albums were commercially successful, none more so than Getz/Gilberto released in 1963 and from which The Girl From Ipanema was released as a single.


Here is a video of a live performance.




Even after fifty or so years, Getz/Gilberto holds up pretty well. The tunes have lost none of their brilliant originality and Getz’s sax, dancing and soaring over the melodies, is a perfect complement to them. The way in which the pieces are performed is deceptively simple giving them a freshness – almost rawness – that has never left them. It is  sophisticated music played in an apparently unsophisticated way.

After the bossa nova years, Getz returned to more straightforward jazz. Here he is, for example, playing Charlie Parker’s Scrapple From The Apple live in concert at the London School of Economics in 1966. He’s accompanied by Gary Burton, Steve Swallow and Roy Haynes.




Throughout the seventies and eighties, Getz continued to tour and release critically acclaimed albums, often collaborating with some of the biggest names in jazz – Bill Evans, Dizzy Gillespie, Oscar Peterson, Chick Corea…. From the album he made with pianist Jimmy Rowles in 1975, here is the title track, The Peacocks.





Stan Getz never coasted. He always tried to get the best out of any tune, to capture it’s essence in the most original way possible but Chris Inghamwithout straying into free jazz experimentation. His romantic lyricism and distinctive light tone made him one of the most admired saxophonists of his day. His musical reputation may have suffered a bit in the years after his death in 1991, but albums like Focus and Getz/Gilberto still figure in lists of must-have jazz.     

For his tribute album, Stan, Chris Ingham has chosen twelve pieces ranging over the whole of Getz’s post Woody Herman career from the early fifties to the late eighties. None of the tracks were written by Getz who was unusual for a top jazz man in that he didn’t compose his own stuff. He was the supreme interpreter rather than an originator.


Chris Ingham
Photograph by Brian O'Connor, Images Of Jazz



Ingham plays piano and is joined by Mark Crooks on tenor sax, Arnie Somogyi on bass and George Double on drums. Given this is a tribute to a saxophonist, it is Mark Crooks who is in the spotlight. And he is a revelation. Best known, perhaps, for his work with the John Wilson and Back To Basie orchestras, he manages to capture Getz’s light tone perfectly – that tenor-sounding-like-alto sound which is so distinctive. He also catches the Getz spirit without ever falling into the trap of mere imitation or pastiche. Crooks remains very much his own man.

Crooks comes closest to Getz, perhaps, with the bossa nova tracks on the album. On Vivo Sonhando, an Antonio Carlos Jobim composition from Getz/Gilberto, Crooks swoops and soars over the tune to the manor born. And on The Dolphin, written by Luiz Eça and Chris Ingham Quartet Stan albumrecorded by Getz in 1981, he plays chorus after sublime chorus with that deceptive Getz style - seeming as if he’s not trying that hard but you know that the duck’s legs are paddling like fury beneath the water. A word, too, for Ingham, Somogyi and Double who, on these bossa nova tracks, set up the most compelling foot tapping, hip twisting rhythms.

On other upbeat numbers, such as Signal and Voyage, Crooks really stretches out with some marvellously virtuosic playing. But it is not only on the fast tempo numbers that Crooks delivers. He also shines on the ballads. On When The World Was Young, for example, or Spring Can Really Hang You Up The Most, his breathy tenor beautifully captures the wistfulness of the tunes.

Chris Ingham showed on Dudley that he is no slouch on the piano. On Stan, he is mainly in a support role but still rolls out some nice solos, particularly on Windows, a Chick Corea piece recorded by Getz in 1967. It has a slight rock beat and Ingham takes an imaginative and absorbing solo. The best of Stan, however, is left to the last track, a wonderfully realised version of The Peacocks. The musicians have the advantage, of course, of a truly great tune and do it full justice. Crooks is in complete control of his instrument and plays with admirable passion. I was reminded of Bobby Wellins and his playing on Starless and Bible Black from the Under Milkwood suite.


Click here for details and to sample the album Stan.


Chris Ingham is touring his show, Getz: A Musical Portrait, throughout 2019.

Here is a short taster of Stan and Ingham’s live show, Getz: A Musical Portrait.






Dates for the tour are:

Chris Ingham Quartet Stan tour



4th March 2019 - Bexley Jazz Club
4th April 2019 - Diss Jazz Club, Corn Hall
5th May 2019 - Lincoln Jazz Week
19th May 2019 - Ipswich Jazz Club, California Club
31st May 2019 - Wakefield Jazz
16th July 2019-  Buxton Festival
31st August 2019 - Hadleigh Jazz Club
28th September 2019 - Oxford Jazz at St. Giles
14th October 2019 - London Reform Club
21st November 2019 - The Other Palace, London  


Further details are on Chris Ingham’s website - click here.





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Invisible Sounds - For Kenny Wheeler
Jean Toussaint - Jazz Messenger
The Tea Break
Jazz As Art

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