Regarded as the greatest instrumental soloist of all-time, Stanley Gayetzky, famously known as Stan Getz emerged as one of the most significant musical forces in the world of jazz post World War II. Felicitated for his sheer melody, distinctively warm and lyrical tone, Getz is fondly dubbed as ‘The Sound’ because of his singularity and musical innovations. His commitment to music is evident from his long body of work that includes over 300 pieces of musical compositions. Ranked among America’s top tenor saxophone players, Getz was a gifted saxophonist who could play just about anything on it, a quality that put him on top of the polls. He is accredited for playing some of the best jazz with some of the best jazzmen in the country. However, his personal life was a rollercoaster ride — tumultuous and loused up by abjection, alcohol, addiction and furious flare-ups. Read on to know all about the life, childhood and profile of this noted saxophonist.
Stan Getz’s Childhood and Early Life
Stan Getz was born to a Jewish couple from Ukraine on 2 February 1927 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. His parents emigrated from the Kiev in 1903. The family had then moved to the New York City for better opportunities. He enrolled in James Monroe High School (New York) in the Bronx and was a bright student. He had just completed his sixth grade when he first fell in love with music. He started playing instruments since then and later his father gifted him a saxophone at the age of 13, which eventually became his favorite pastime. In 1941, he enrolled into the All City High School Orchestra of New York City. There he not only received free tutoring from the New York Philharmonic's Simon Kovar, but also got the chance to play the saxophone. Later, he tried to opt out of school owing to his burgeoning interest in music, but was sent back to the class by the school system's truancy officers.
His career began at the age of 16 when he joined the Jack Teagarden's band and eventually became Teagarden’s ward. He had played with great artists such as Nat King Cole and Lionel Hampton and played for Stan Kenton, Jimmy Dorsey, and Benny Goodman. He became a musician with Woody Herman from the year 1947-1949 in ‘The Second Herd’. He got his recognition as one of the band’s leading saxophonists who were famously known as ‘The Four Brothers’. His career started growing with Herman who also helped launch his solo career. Later, he went on to lead nearly all the recording sessions, after 1950.
Getz got fame playing cool jazz with Horace Silver, Johnny Smith, Oscar Peterson, and many others. Once he returned to the U.S. from Europe in the year 1961, he became famous as the musician who introduced bossa nova music to the American citizens. Along with guitarist Charlie Byrd, he recorded Jazz Samba, which was an instant success. The track was an adaptation of Jobim’s ‘One Note Samba’, which earned him many coveted awards. His success rate doubled with the release of the album Jazz Samba Encore with guitarist Luiz Bonfá that won him his second gold disc. Getz was a huge admirer of Lester Young. He was an outstanding saxophonist whose works and melodies were a great inspiration for Getz. Lester Young’s style, relaxed way of performance and the lyrical style inspired the young saxophonist to the hilt. One of his best career works was ‘You Gotta Pay the Band’, which was recorded in 1991 with Abbey Lincoln.
His works began to improve and increase when he recorded the album Getz/Gilberto with Gilberto and his wife and Jobim. In the year 1963, their work ‘The Girl from Ipanema’ won Grammy Award. This work of Getz turned out to be one of his greatest and well-known Latin jazz hits. He, as a solo singer won Grammy awards for his work. Unfortunately, due to his relationship with Mrs. Gilberto, his musical partnership with the Gilberto’s ended and he moved back to cool jazz. Even though the partnership did not last, his album ‘Nobody Else but Me’ with vibraphonist Gary Burton released after his death. During the 1960’s Getz helped in the making of a Brazilian-inflected variety of jazz, which then raised his bar in the sales chart and remained as one of the top musicians in Jazz until his detach. In 1972, he recorded with Chick Corea, Tony Williams and Clarke and experimented with Echoplex on his saxophone. Getz then worked in the 1980’s in the San Francisco bay and as a teacher at the Stanford Jazz Workshop until 1988. In 1986, he was placed in the Down Beat Jazz Hall of Fame. In 1988, he worked with Huey Lewis and the News on an album and played solo on the title track.
His album with the Quartets had an amazing tune recorded called the ‘Crazy Chords’. His pieces were quite innovative where he used extreme keys to play a track. In the album, there is an example of the way Getz treats a slow ballad. Until the year 1958, he played some amazing tracks in jazz with best jazzmen such as Al Haig, Oscar Peterson, Bill Evans, Chet Baker, Jimmy Raney and Horace Silver. He then moved to Europe in 1958 and worked with European musicians, with Swedish baritone players, and with other US expatriates. In 1961, he returned to New York and composed one of his best works ever — ‘Focus’. This piece of work showed the stunning talent of the musician. After that, Getz made another album called Jazz Samba, which contained his greatest hit the Samba, 'Desafinado'. With this, his career graph took a giant leap and Bossa Nova became one of his craze for a while.
He married jazz singer Beverly Byrne and the couple had three children, despite of a tumultuous relationship. His heroin addiction turned out to be a major setback for his career in jazz in the year 1954. After several encounters with the law, he decided to ditch his addiction and in February, he landed in Seattle, Washington with troubles for the source of the drug. This then tempted him to rob the heroin and gradually was arrested and jailed in Southern California for 6 months. This stopped him from consuming morphine. He then divorced his wife Byrne in 1956, got married to Monica Silfverskiold, and had two more children. They lived in Copenhagen in the 1950’s to escape the legal problem. In 1957, he released six albums with star collaborators and raised the careers of young players in Scandinavia’s jazz scene. In 1980, he left Monica, his second wife. The divorce was granted to him in 1987. In the late 1980’s, he gave out many well-received recordings which included ‘Anniversary’. In 1987, he was diagnosed with liver cancer. However, that gravity of his physical condition didn’t deter him and he continued to perform and record many albums.
- The Steamer
- Best of the Roost Years
- Best of the West Coast Sessions
- People Time
- Jazz Samba
- Running Water
- Chocolate Sundae with Gerry Mulligan and Harry
- Sweets, Edison, and Oscar Peterson
- Stan's Blues
- Tootsie Roll
- For Stompers Only
- S'cool Boy
- Ah-Moore (Amour)
- Apasionado, with Herb Alpert and Eddie Del Barrio,
- Amorous Cat
- Crazy Chords
- Tour's End
- And The Angels Swing
- Long Island Sound
- Half-breed Apache
- Bronx Blues
- Blues for Herky
- Pocono Mac
- Blues for Mary Jane
His major contribution to the world of music was the jazz melody. He was an incredible soloist and was also called the best melody player in jazz.
Death dawned upon Stan Getz on 6 June 1991 at the age of 64. He died in Malibu, California, United States due to liver cancer.
Awards & Accolades
- Getz won Grammy Award for Best Jazz Performance, Soloist(Instrumental) 'Desafinado', in the year 1962
- In 1964, he got a Grammy award for record of the year ‘The Girl from Ipanema’ and in the same year got another Grammy award for album of the year.
- He also received the Grammy Award for Best Instrumental Jazz Performance, Soloist With Small Group, Getz/Gilberto in 1964
- In 1991, he earned a Grammy Award for Best Jazz Solo Performance ‘I Remember You’.