Music Reviews
Cal Tjader and Stan Getz

Cal Tjader and Stan Getz



Old school jazz was a sort of clubby operation. Everyone was too cool to use a last name, so it’s Monk and Della and Stan, and you’d better be hip enough to keep them right. So here we have Stan and Carl jamming with Vince and Eddie. (Pop quiz – identify Vince and Eddie without a search engine.) These guys came from different labels, but somehow this impromptu jam ended up on vinyl and defined the heart and soul of the post-war jazz scene. Big band is dying, but its mortal cries underlie this 1958 session. With roots in Woody Herman and Dave Brubeck, these guys were masters of the genre, and to imagine that all this music flowed from spur-of-the-moment riffing off each other shows they were all refugees from some glowing space ship sent from the Planet Hipster. Hi-Fi and Stereo were the iThis and FaceThat of the day, and the recording puts those now ancient technologies to their best and highest use – every bit of dynamic range and frequency response gets exploited, noticed, and enjoyed. The separation between piano and bass puts you in the middle of the action; the smell of nicotine and the men’s room is all that’s missing here.

Opening with “Ginza Samba,” we follow its snaky clarinet line through the woods, only to hear it disappear and reappear exactly on cue when a drum solo or vibraphone run emerges. The standard “I’ve Grown Accustomed To Her Face” (from “My Fair Lady” by Lerner and Lowe) slows us down when only the right hand keys on the piano play and emphasize the spirituality and longing of the lyrics. In any other setting, I’d compare this to a late-night post-closing-time concert, but here it takes on a magic of its own – lonely and despondent yet hopeful and introspective.

“For All We Know” accelerates this emotional chord, picking up the pace ever so slightly, but staying in the higher registers this time on vibes. The piano has slid down in volume and hides behind the drums, serving more to keep the time right while the Tjader’s vibraphone showcases it’s more mellow side. Off on “Crow’s Nest” Getz leads with the tenor sax, milking it for notes that carry that internal jazz logic you can hear but never clearly explain. The boys head to waltz land with “Liz-Anne,” Eddie Duran uses his guitar stings to embellish the rock steady drumming of Billy Higgins. We’ve lost the excitement of that opening cut, but fallen in love and are off to pick out hand towels at the mall. Meanwhile “Big Bear” pulls out a coordinated duet between sax and guitar. I’m impressed anyone can improvise note-for-note like Getz and Duran, but there you have it. Only seven tracks here and we close with “My Buddy,” the most down beat of all these cuts.

There’s an arc in these compositions, not only inside each piece, but their overall arrangement carries you on an emotional trajectory that isn’t scary, but always interesting. No extra cuts on this pressing, the songs are as you would have heard them on your Harmon Karden in 1958. Nice liner notes, both the original ones from the vinyl pressing (too small to read) and the modern commentary insert into the jewel case. Plenty of good material here. Sit down and let’s play it again, and we can discuss it some more.

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