LP REVIEW: João Gilberto and Stan Getz – Getz/Gilberto '76

João Gilberto and Stan Getz – Getz/Gilberto '76
(Resonance Records HLP-9021. LP review by Andrew Cartmel)

On a few rare occasions, quite out of the blue, a genuine jazz musician has found himself with a huge crossover popular hit. It happened to Dave Brubeck with ‘Take Five’ and Lee Morgan with ‘The Sidewinder’. For tenor sax legend Stan Getz the seeds were sown at a recording session in March 1963 with Antônio Carlos Jobim on piano and João Gilberto on guitar. The album that came out a year later was called Getz/Gilberto and it featured a number of vocal tracks by the guitarist’s wife, Astrud Gilberto. One of these was ‘The Girl from Ipanema’, which was released as a single and proceeded to go through the roof — by some estimates it’s the second most recorded song of all time (after Lennon and McCartney’s ‘Yesterday’). There’s a famous story that, when it became obvious what a monster hit ‘Ipanema’ was going to be, Getz was straight on the phone to the record company — to make sure that Astrud didn’t get a cut of the royalties.

The LP that spawned the single went on to sell a million copies and win the Grammy for best Album of the Year, a feat that wouldn’t be repeated by a jazz recording until Herbie Hancock won in 2008. The success of Getz/Gilberto inevitably led to a follow up, the 1966 Getz/Gilberto #2, although this was a very tenuous sequel since it was recorded live in concert and Getz and Gilberto never played together on it, only being featured on separate tracks throughout. Maybe it was something to do with that phone call. In any case, that was where the Getz/Gilberto saga ended, until producer Zev Feldman got his hands on the tapes which constitute this album. Feldman has been called the “Indiana Jones of jazz”, and he certainly has a knack for unearthing musical treasure — he was also responsible for the previous Resonance release Wes Montgomery — In the Beginning.

The newly discovered Getz/Gilberto sessions — on which the two men emphatically do collaborate — come from a week-long series of dates at the Keystone Korner club in San Francisco’s North Beach in 1976. The tapes made then are superbly clear and preserve the music in an intimate and well balanced recording, captured with particular vividness on this limited edition high-quality vinyl release. It’s also available on CD (HCD-2021), as is an album featuring Getz and his rhythm section, Clint Houston bass, Billy Hart drums, Joanne Brackeen piano, at the same club during the same week, with Gilberto sitting out (Moments in Time Resonance HCD-2020). All these various editions feature in-depth and authoritative notes which are practically on the scale of a Mosaic release. But the LP version has the edge both sonically, and in the impact of the cover painting; in a particularly nice touch by Resonance this is the work of Puerto Rican abstract expressionist Olga Albizu — the same artist who provided the cover images for the first two Getz/Gilberto albums.

In his spoken introduction Getz praises João Gilberto for his ability “to sing warmly without a vibrato” and the simple strumming of Gilberto’s guitar unfolds and develops in complexity as a vehicle for that voice on É Preciso Perdoar (‘Must Forgive’), with Clint Houston’s bass following closely, fattening the sound in an almost subliminal way, Joanne Brackeen playing delicate and tasteful fills and Billy Hart’s tight, spare drumming — a steady tic-tac — provides the pulse. An elegant and affecting mood is established almost immediately, but it has to be said that when Getz comes in, a whole other dimension is added to the proceedings. His tenor it isn’t what you could call smooth — it has a rasping rawness — but it’s endlessly engaging, with a rough eloquence. Hart moves forward to support the leader and then Getz steps back to let Gilberto command the stage again, with Houston’s superb bass reinforcing his guitar. It’s surprising, and gratifying, how much space Getz gives to Gilberto throughout this recording. No turf wars here.

Aguas de Março (‘Waters of March’), is a composition by Antônio Carlos Jobim and possibly his masterpiece. The version here is an absolute beauty, with the gentle urgency of Gilberto’s vocal set against his lonely, loping guitar and giving the tune a speeding heartbeat, like skipping a stone on the water. As the cascade of Jobim’s images are sung, they’re accompanied and brought to life by the sprightly bounce of his guitar playing. Again, the bass and drums are so nearly subliminal that this almost seems like a solo performance. Retrato em Branco e Preto (‘Portrait in White and Black’) sees Getz’s tenor come in with harshly beautiful authority, weaving sensuously around the melody as if knotting silk scarfs. Bass and drums provide a sturdy heartbeat and Gilberto’s husky vocals are softly piercing. There is a great reality of sound to this recording, and it has tremendous intimacy. The selections are terrific and the musicians playing them on the top of their game. It seems that, over fifty years after its release, Getz/Gilberto finally has a worthy successor.

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