Great Encounters #40: In the studio with Bill Evans and Stan Getz

January 29th, 2015

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“Great Encounters” are book excerpts that chronicle famous encounters among twentieth-century cultural icons. This edition tells the star-crossed story of the 1964 recording session featuring Verve saxophonist Stan Getz and pianist Bill Evans, issued as Stan Getz and Bill Evans.

Excerpted from Bill Evans:  How My Heart Sings by Peter Pettinger

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In 1961 Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer had purchased Verve Records from Norman Granz. Creed Taylor became the new executive director, and made a number of crucial policy decisions, including the sacking of the majority of Verve’s contract artists. One of a handful to survive was Stan Getz, who had been recording for the company since 1952. Taylor aimed to reach the largest possible audience through jazz, and he succeeded; Stan Getz, for example, soon wooed the public with his smooth bossa nova explorations – not to say hits – with Charlie Byrd, Astrud Gilberto, and others. It seemed inevitable in 1964 that Taylor should team up his star tenor player with Bill Evans; with Evans still fresh from his Grammy Award, the pairing promised commercial success.

Rudy Van Gelder had finally abandoned his career of optometry and had built a new studio at Englewood Cliffs, New Jersey. In early May, Evans spent two days there recording with Stan Getz and the drummer Elvin Jones; Richard Davis and Ron Carter shared the bass spot. This collaboration of mixed fortunes was issued as Stan Getz and Bill Evans. To be sure, Getz was alternately ravishing and ebullient, but Evans seemed curiously empty of ideas when up-tempo, resorting a couple of times to his “dribbling” cliché (four or so quick notes, rising by semitone, in groups syncopated across the beat), a sure sign of unease. On “My Heart Stood Still,” the drummer seemed to be powerhousing a big band that was not there. For a track like this, Richard Palmer is right to suggest that McCoy Tyner would have been a more successful choice as pianist for the date.

Getz seduced “But Beautiful” through Bill’s characteristic key-cycle of thirds, and “Funkallero” (from Loose Bloose) proved itself a fine blowing vehicle, but the group was not settled, and Evans exhibited a sense of rhythmic strain on “Night and Day.” This and other tracks were subjected to the almost obligatory Verve fade. As for “The Carpetbaggers,” Bill may well have thought to himself, I can’t believe I’m actually doing this! as he continued, robotlike, to put down beats two and three…

Equal in curiosity value is the WNEW theme song, meriting just one chorus each of piano and saxophone and playing out in under three minutes. Ah, but of course: another potential hit single for the flip side of “The Carpetbaggers”! On the original LP, snatches of “Dark Eyes” formed a mad postscript, a mutual flashback to teenage dance-band days complete with flatulent vibrato and pummeling stride; Getz yells, “You forgot the arrangement!” The writer Barry Kernfeld reminded me of the circumstances: “In what was meant to be a private joke at the end of the session, Getz recorded a parody of ‘Dark Eyes’ in which he exaggerated the crassest elements of tenor saxophonist Charlie Ventura’s raspy style; the Verve company released this recording, to Getz’s embarrassment and fury, but Getz managed to have the Ventura send-up deleted from reissues.”

Evans summed up the star-crossed nature of the session much later: “Both Stan and I had a mutual desire to do a record together but when it was over, we both felt that we had not got to the level we wanted. Stan had a clause in his contract that would prevent the release of anything that he did not approve and so the record was not issued. However, later, Verve released it without approval. I am no so unhappy about it now but this is the sort of thing that record companies do without reference to the artists involved.”

In fact, Evans had the same clause in his contract, and both players had the same lawyer. Artists and management alike were unhappy with these tapes, but it would have cost $10,000 to get an injunction. Resigned and angry, Helen Keane and her pianist let the recording come out in 1974.

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Excerpted from Bill Evans:  How My Heart Sings, by Peter Pettinger

pettinger

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“The Carpetbaggers Theme”

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2 comments on “Great Encounters #40: In the studio with Bill Evans and Stan Getz”

  1. This is an important album. I have it of course and revel in listening to it every 3 months.
    Exquisite!

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