Early Getz and Bebop

A few days ago, I stumbled upon a dissertation by saxophonist Marcus Wolfe titled "Stan Getz: Forgotten Bebop Saxophonist." I'd read a couple jazz-related dissertations over break, mostly curious to see what kind of work a dissertation in jazz studies entails, and been generally disappointed by writing that seemed either too general (e.g., overview of a player's whole career and explaining his/her contributions or innovations) or just lacking in rigor (a few transcriptions and marginal comments formatted and stretched over many pages). 

Wolfe makes a simple, clear argument: that Stan Getz was a great bebop player—better than many casual listeners might realize if they've only checked out his bossa nova stuff. As he writes:
Surprisingly, very few people are aware that Getz was one of the first tenor saxophonists to master bebop vocabulary, and as of 1951, was among the most sophisticated progenitors of the bebop style on the tenor.
I was impressed by the quality of the solo transcriptions—excellent examples of Getz's bebop playing from his Royal Roost Sessions (1951)—and by the way Wolfe established a baseline of stylistic devices, which I might call melodic, rhythm, or harmonic sensibilities, and then identified numerous examples of Getz demonstrating his assimilation of and control over these musical tropes. 

That isn't to say that there aren't things I felt were more problematic in this dissertation—in particular, the argument that Getz is a "better" bebop player than contemporaries. The purpose of the paper is ostensibly to do the following (taken from the abstract):
The objective of this project is to establish Getz as a primary disseminator of the bebop style on the tenor saxophone by documenting his improvisational vocabulary specific to the era, and comparing it to recordings of his contemporaries. A secondary goal will be to support the evolutionary argument by showing that his vocabulary was itself a product of the evolutionary process.
I think this sounds like a worthy project, since Getz's earlier bebop playing doesn't usually get too much attention in relation to later stuff in his career, but something doesn't seem quite right here:
My purpose is to chronicle Getz’s improvisational vocabulary specific to the years 1950- 1951, establish him as one of the first and best bebop tenor saxophonists, and support the evolutionary approach to jazz scholarship by tracing the elements of his vocabulary to their origins.
"One of the first and best"? How about something like one of the earlier musicians to adopt the bebop language and integrate it with the existing swing paradigm, in a very sophisticated way? What I feel is most lacking in the paper is in the comparison of Getz to contemporaries, which is done almost entirely through citation of recordings and other jazz criticism, rather than with the same rigorous, musical analysis afforded to Getz's solos. E.g., discussion of why Dexter Gordon shouldn't necessarily be considered in the same light as an early Getz:
Gordon and Ammons were in the milieu but were certainly not the first or best examples of the bebop style as of 1950...Gordon’s performances on these recordings [Dexter Rides Again] definitely lean toward bebop but are immature and are most accurately described as transitional. His solos include some chromatic ornamentation and extended harmonies but go through long sections of harmonic vagary. 
An annotated transcription here might make the claim more convincing, but it's hard to argue with the intuitive argument that Dexter was picking up bebop before Getz—he was playing gigs with Bird even back in 1945. And a characterization of Warne Marsh's playing as being "unbebop"-like:
Marsh’s solos [on "Cherokee" and others] are rhythmically very complex but he seems to have bypassed the bebop language altogether absorbing Parker’s influence second-hand through Tristano and alto saxophonist Lee Konitz. His lines have some “Parkerisms” but generally lack chromatic voice leading. 
"Bypassed the bebop language" is just too vague—if Marsh does incorporate some or many of the devices explored elsewhere in the dissertation, then why isn't he considered a player of the bebop tradition? I agree that Tristano-ites generally have something in their approach to phrasing and rhythm that is substantively different from those who didn't study with him and came more out of Bird, Bud, and others, but this really brings up the issue of how to define "bebop playing," and also whether making this kind of a style/genre distinction is helpful in any meaningful way.

I think what does become clear is that the development of a community of musicians leaning towards a certain sensibility, i.e., bebop, is a tangled bank of interconnected, sometimes mutually influential musical approaches. I don't know too much about this "evolutionary approach to jazz scholarship," but it sounds very difficult: how do you isolate an element of vocabulary to its origins? I'd be interested in a more thorough comparative study of early Getz with contemporaneous or earlier Lester Young recordings, which Getz would have likely checked out. 

What is particularly interesting to me in checking out early Getz is how much he developed in the decade from 1945-55. Of course, he's still very young in his first few recordings, like "Always," a tune he recorded with trombonist Kai Winding in December '45, at age 18.

The Lester Young influence on this recording is undeniable—the one or two wavers of vibrato at the end of notes, the stylized turns at the tops of phrases, the mostly diatonic language with some arpeggiated stuff and voice-leading stuff here and there. Compare this recording to another one half a year later: Getz's first recording as a leader, which he did for Savoy records with an indisputably iconic bebop rhythm section made up of Hank Jones, Curly Russell, and Max Roach. 19 years old, and still working out his musical language, as you can hear on three takes of a Hank Jones rhythm changes called "Opus de Bop."

Prior to this recording, Getz had already seen Bird play live while staying in New York with Benny Goodman the winter of 1945:
Highly recommended reading (NB: very dark at times)
“Benny Goodman was doing only Army camps. We’d fly to them in an Army plane. Three, four times a week. And the rest of the time I’d be on 52nd Street to hear this amazing music. And I was bowled over by it… Once every 20, 30, maybe 50 years a guy will come along like Charlie Parker that’s really avant-garde. When he played, people said, ‘That makes sense and it’s new.’ And what he created opened up avenues still being explored… When I first heard Charlie Parker, I couldn’t believe it. He was so ahead of his time. Also free…He was just great.” (from Donald Maggin's excellent Stan Getz: A Life in Jazz
Getz probably would have also heard or encountered Dexter Gordon, too, which might possibly be related to the apparent deepening of Getz's sound on this recording. His tone is distinctly more hard-edged and sounds like an attempt at getting across a different sensibility of tenor playing, maybe something more Texas tenor-like. But, although it's some fine playing so early in the bebop era and for such a young player, the playing on this date pales in comparison to anything Getz does in the '50s and on. On this recording, he repeats himself again and again: check out the triplet enclosure F#-G-G# to A-F# around G, and the descending, sweeping C-G-D#-E-G figure, which may have come from Lester. It's also clear that Getz is limited in his control of resolving from different points in the harmony—he just doesn't have that many options—and he sometimes uncharacteristically lands on awkward passing tones when his lines aren't phrased very precisely. Compared to his solo over the rhythm changes head "Wee" a decade later in 1956, it's clear how far he's come as a player in his assimilation of bebop.

There are some moments in these three takes that suggest some of his later, more sophisticated playing, like some voice-leading arpeggios mm. 97-8, and in his alternate takes, you see some other instances of tritone substitutions and cleverly woven lines, but nothing that would suggest that Getz was a master of playing bebop, yet.

Getz repeats the Lester-ish figure in the first two bars of the second alternate take.
And he caps off the solo with a Lester-ish tongue-on-reed phrase.

Interestingly, Getz apparently had a hard time getting into the bebop scene in New York at first. Maybe he couldn't play well enough, or nobody knew him, or maybe they thought he was just too young. Ben Webster did let Getz sit in from time to time, though:

“I was with Benny Goodman’s band at that time, and I wanted to get in with this exciting music on 52nd Street. But no one would let me sit in. No one except Ben, that is, a beautiful guy.            He knew I was keen and some nights he’d say: “All right, kid, get your horn.” And I would blow with the quartet and enjoy that.”
Getz and Kai Winding would shed bebop on the road, to the disapproval of Benny Goodman:
“The band had a number of youngsters like Kai Winding and Stan Getz who carried Charlie Parker records with them on the road and practiced playing bebop together in the closet very secretly. They were like a closed society…            Sometimes Benny would poke his nose in the dressing room and listen to what they were doing; then he’d go, ‘Tsk, tsk, tsk’ and walk away.” - Danny Bank (from Maggin's biography) 
Four years after recording "Always" with Winding, Getz played on a Christmas Carnegie Hall concert with bands led by Bird, Lennie Tristano, and Miles Davis (among others!). They perform the same arrangement of "Always," although noticeably quicker, and Getz's development is underscored by the greater range of voice-leading approaches he uses to shape his melodies and the ease with which he lets off a few impeccably clean double-time phrases:
The lines in mm. 14-16 actually strongly recall Bird's phrasing (also in mm. 30-31), but Getz throughout is playing with a sound that's less Lester-like than in 1945 as well as far less Dexter-ish than on "Opus de Bop"—his selective, quick vibrato and rounded sound heard here seem to me to be pretty much some of the foundational elements of his style that persist throughout his career. And by the time Getz is playing his '51 Storyville sessions that Wolfe writes about, he's pretty much got all the language he'll need for the rest of his career.

I've always wondered what it might sound like to play Getz solos with a contrasting sound concept, as with a heavier, more gruff Dexter vibe; from checking out these solos, I'd imagine that Getz's connection and rootedness to bebop might be more clear than when hearing him deliver these precisely improvised lines with his less conventional sound for this style of playing. If I were to identify any weaknesses or limitations of Getz's bebop playing, it'd probably be that he tends to repeat himself—he's less like Sonny Rollins, who takes small melodic ideas and creates variations upon them rhythmically and motifically, and more like Bird, who to me does repeat himself often but in surprising ways.

What I mean is that he works with a broad set of vocabulary that he feels comfortable with, and builds solos with these pieces of melodic material, while also changing them rhythmically and phrasing them differently to fit the context of the solo, but not enough that these fragments aren't recognizable. I think Getz is the same way, which makes him a bit more traditional, in a sense. I'd still agree that Getz is in many ways underrated; it's easy to write him off as a ballad player, or as an overrated white saxophonist proffering a pale imitation of Lester Young, but I think that his sound is unique and distinctive from the mid-'50s on. I'd also be interested in reading other Getz scholarship, if anyone happens to know of any that exists.