Resonance Records has recently tapped the archives of the fondly-remembered San Francisco jazz spot Keystone Korner for two valuable additions on compact disc and vinyl to the Stan Getz discography. The late tenor saxophone legend’s appearances at the nightspot between May 11 and 16, 1976 have been culled to create two new albums. Moments in Time preserves nine performances from Getz’s core sets, while its companion is even more special. Getz/Gilberto ’76 is a new entry to the small but significant collaborative discography of Getz and Brazilian guitarist-singer João Gilberto. ’76, featuring Gilberto’s guest appearances during Getz’s gigs, can rightfully take a place alongside Getz/Gilberto (1964), Getz/Gilberto # 2 (1966) and The Best of Two Worlds (1976).
There’s real magic on Getz/Gilberto ’76. As on Getz/Gilberto # 2, a 1964 live recording from Carnegie Hall originally released in 1966, some selections feature Getz and Gilberto; some just have Gilberto. (Getz’s selections sans Gilberto can be found on the companion Moments in Time.) Getz’s inventive, exploratory trio – Joanne Brackeen on piano, Clint Houston bass and Billy Hart on drums – accompany these twelve performances with tremendous subtlety to match Gilberto’s singularly intimate yet inviting guitar-and-vocals style as well as Getz’s sinuous solos. The resulting performances are as sweet, gentle and beguiling as expected. Though the saxophonist had explored other avenues in the ensuing years, his billowy tenor fell comfortably back into the slinky bossa nova grooves, conjuring a familiar tone and setting.
About half of the songs heard here were also recorded by Getz and Gilberto for their Columbia release The Best of Two Worlds (which would be released that fall but had been recorded a year earlier), including two from Antonio Carlos Jobim. His songs, of course, had defined the groundbreaking, original Getz/Gilberto. (“The Girl from Ipanema,” however, is absent.) Best of all is Gilberto’s solo rendition of the haunting lyrical collage “Aguas de Marco” (“Waters of March”), one of Jobim’s great post-1960s standards. The lesser-known “Retrato en Branco e Prieto” (“Picture in Black and White”) has a hypnotic feel that harkens back to “Corcovado.” A third Jobim song played at Keystone Korner did not appear on Best of Two Worlds. “Chega da Saudade” is often recognized as the first bossa nova song. With his 1959 rendition, João Gilberto was likely the second artist to record it. His genial rapport with Getz is evident on the song titled “No More Blues” in English, and both men certainly delivered on the promise of that title.
Getz/Gilberto ’76 also boasts three compositions from Dori Caymmi including a reprise of “Doralice” from Getz/Gilberto and two from # 2, the lovely “Rosa Morena” and the breezy “Samba da Minha Terra.” The composer credits on ’76 add up to a virtual “Who’s Who” of the great Brazilian songwriters; also heard on the Keystone Korner stage were songs from Gilberto Gil (“Eu Vim da Bahia”) and Ary Barroso (“Morena Boca de Ouro”). Gilberto played a couple of his own memorable compositions, as well: the instrumentals “Joao Marcelo” and “Um Abraço No Bonfá.”
The elegant companion volume Moments in Time even more fully captures leader Getz and his band in peak form, functioning as one as they romp through Getz’s various musical genres. Harry Warren and Al Dubin’s opening “Summer Night” cedes from a languid, noir-ish rubato introduction to a freewheeling, freshly inventive excursion through bop and swing. Brackeen’s fleet improvisations are particularly tasty on this standard.
On Moments in Time, Getz strikes a fine balance between the old and the new. Of particular interest to Getz/Gilberto fans may be the obligatory bossa track. Getz introduced Jobim’s “O Grande Amor” on Getz/Gilberto and revisited it in 1967 on the album Sweet Rain with Chick Corea, Ron Carter and Grady Tate. The familiar contours of a lilting Jobim melody are evident on the Moments performance, but Getz and Brackeen’s approach is a forceful one, anchored solidly by Houston and Hart. Dizzy Gillespie’s dynamic, shifting “Con Alma,” was also reprised from Sweet Rain as a Latin-style showcase.
Of the more recent material in the set, Getz had not previously recorded the ballad “Infant Eyes” from another tenor saxophone hero, the slightly-younger Wayne Shorter. It’s rendered in smoky, sultry and slow-burning fashion. Getz also interjected a bit of current, seventies-style jazz-funk on the Kenny Wheeler composition Getz called “Cry of the Wild Goose,” displaying Hart’s assured drumming and the band’s tight interplay and swagger.
Getz also dipped into the past for a number of selections. Horace Silver, who had rose to fame in Getz’s band in the 1950s, authored the ballad “Peace.” The song finds Getz’s playing at its most lyrically reflective, while Duke Ellington’s classic “Prelude to a Kiss” brings out his romantic side. Another standard closes out the album, Jimmy Rowles and Johnny Mercer’s lightly swinging “Morning Star.”
Both Getz/Gilberto ’76 and Moments in Time have been lavishly packaged by Resonance. Within their digipaks, both releases boast thick booklets – 32 pages for the former, 28 pages for the latter. Both have numerous essays reflecting on the performances from various perspectives, including those of project co-producer Zev Feldman, Keystone Korner proprietor Todd Barkan, jazz scholars James Gavin (for Getz/Gilberto) and Ted Panken (for Moments), band members Billy Hart and Joanne Brackeen, and Stan’s son Steve Getz. In a fine, classy touch, G/G ’76 is adorned with distinctive artwork by Olga Albizu, the cover artist of the original Getz/Gilberto LPs. The sound has been restored by Fran Gala and George Klabin, and mastered by Gala, for both titles. Both of these live albums stand alone as engaging listening experiences, but they are doubtless best enjoyed as a pair. But alone or together, the grooves conjured by Getz, Brackeen, Houston and Hart are altogether transporting.