Stan Getz on "The Way You Look Tonight"

I wrote down a few thoughts on jam sessions yesterday, which reminded me of an album that made clear to me how some world class musicians approach these kinds of situations. The record is called Sittin' In (1957) and is under Dizzy Gillespie's name, although it also features Stan Getz, Paul Gonsalves, and Coleman Hawkins; the rhythm section includes Wynton Kelly on piano, J.C. Heard on drums, and Wendell Marshall on bass. 

I bought this record when I first started checking out jazz and was trying to get my hands on anything that had Getz playing on it. I distinctly remember being at first confused at why this CD only had four tracks, but I soon realized that each track was over 10 minutes long: "Dizzy Atmosphere," two ballad medleys back-to-back*, and "The Way You Look Tonight."

One particular episode I'd like to point out: in "The Way You Look Tonight," the solo order in the horns is Coleman Hawkins, Paul Gonsalves, Stan Getz, and lastly Dizzy Gillespie—almost sort of a chronological order, in a way. I have to admit that I've never spent serious time checking out Paul Gonsalves and that I'm not particularly a fan, although I appreciate the energy in his playing and that his phrasing is pretty distinct: something in between swing and bebop, like some strange hybrid alien. 

In any case, what happens is that Gonsalves takes his solo on this up-tempo tune and he sounds fine. He doesn't stumble, but he never really takes off either—the tempo is too fast or the tune is unfamiliar, and he ends up repeating himself a lot (there's one particular phrase that ends almost every other longer line he plays). He ends his solo about 12 bars early, leaving a little 4 bar gap until Getz jumps in to carry the tune into the solo break and his solo. 

And the vibe completely changes! Getz is playing completely fluent bebop over the tune, and the sonic texture seems to get more transparent and listenable instantly. It doesn't sound like Getz is out to get anybody, but he's playing confidently in his own style and it changes the entire sound of the band. 

There's another moment like this on "Dizzy Atmosphere"—after Coleman Hawkins taking a long, rip-roaring solo with plenty of his trademark growling and old-school wailing (also Dizzy and co.'s high-note backgrounds!), Getz comes in playing lithe, long lines and again the contrast is immense. At the time when I first got the CD, I remember laughing out loud because it was such an unexpected contrast; when Hawkins is playing, he's almost overblowing the mic—that's how loud he is: you can barely hear anything. When Getz comes in, it's like changing into a different era: the sound is so much clearer and the lines have progressed to '50s bebop (not to say Hawkins wasn't a harmonic master, but in this particular context—the up-tempo bebop—he seemed to have opted for another approach).

So there's that. Here's Getz's solo on "The Way You Look Tonight." 

Getz uses short, melodic phrases effectively on fast-tempo tunes to break up the monotony of long bebop lines. Check out mm. 65-72.

Again, breaking things up in mm.109-116 before going for it in m. 117.

Whoa! mm. 125-129. And voice leading in mm. 133-16. And, repetition in . 137-144!

Great motific development in mm. 161-68. Also, mm. 169-173! Getz can really play lines.

* Actually, I think the ballad medleys are the tracks where each player ends up sounding the best, i.e., the most distinct and personal-sounding.

* * Do people still play ballad medleys? I think they're actually a great idea—since you've only got the opportunity to play one chorus while phrasing the melody, it's all about your approach to the tune. The actual tune, that is, not just the chord changes. I heard Barry Harris at the Vanguard last week, and he played a 5-ballad medley at the end of the set! This brings to mind the words of Jimmy Rowles (from Ethan Iverson's excellent interview with Fred Hersch): "Sometimes I just like to play melodies."