The Getz interpretation of Charlie Haden’s ‘First Song’ is one of the most beautiful pieces captured during the engagementc.

Universal Emarcy

Stan Getz (tenor saxophone); Kenny Barron (piano)
Recorded March 1991

There are two versions of People Time. There is the complete recording (7CDs), and there is a 2CD set.

  1. East Of The Sun (And West Of The Moon) / 2. Night And Day / 3. I’m Okay / 4. Like Someone In Love / 5. Stablemates / 6. I Remember Clifford / 7. Gone With The Wind / 8. First Song / 9. There Is No Greater Love / 10. Surrey With The Fringe On Top / 11. People Time / 12. Softly As In A Morning Sunrise / 13. Hush A Bye / 14. Soul Eyes

Few musicians have been as reviled as Stan Getz. No one has created as much sheer beauty. All this was background to a Getz career that featured episodes of addiction to drugs and alcohol, even criminality and promiscuity. Few, however, have displayed as much courage in the face of death as Getz. One album ‘’People Time’ recorded at the end of his career has shown his remarkable courage. Author Ernest Hemingway created the phrase ‘grace under pressure’ to illustrate how to behave under adversity.

In 1986 Getz was appointed as ‘artist in residence’ at Stanford University. Getz was using this time to deal with his addiction to alcohol and drugs and to sort out his convoluted relationship problems. Eventually, Getz wanted to return to playing and he invited George Mraz, Victor Lewis and Kenny Barron to tour. Their first album was ‘Voyage’. It was an album that he created without resorting to drink or drugs.

There was a European tour in 1987 and Getz recorded two albums ‘Serenity’ and ‘Anniversary’ at the Cafe Montmartre in Copenhagen. It was at that time that Getz started to play ‘Blood Count’ the piece that Billy Strayhorn wrote on his death bed for Johnny Hodges and the Ellington orchestra. It was as if Getz realized the foreboding message in the piece.

Reviewers commented on the intensity of Getz’ playing at this time. It was after this tour that Getz returned to the USA to have a tumour removed from behind his heart. He recuperated in 1988 and 1989 when it was discovered that he now also had cancer of the liver. Getz started another European tour and the BBC recorded the Glasgow concert. Getz liked to feature both the playing and the writing of Kenny Barron. It was in Glasgow that he featured Barron on ‘People Time’, the Benny Carter piece as a duet. Kenny Barron was the last in a roster of great pianists who worked with Getz: Hank Jones, Al Haig, Horace Silver, Jimmy Rowles, Lou Levy, Mose Allison, Bill Evans, Chick Corea and Joanne Brackeen.

Plans were eventually made for Getz and Kenny Barron to return to Copenhagen and the Montmartre to record a series of duets. When Getz arrived for the tour, it was obvious to promoter Billy Hoogstraten that Getz’ health had seriously deteriorated. The Montmartre engagement was scheduled for four nights 3rd to 6th March.

Playing as a duo puts extra strain on a saxophone player. Kenny Barron’s notes for the album say, ‘I noticed that after each solo he was out of breath. It was taxing for him, as he had to play more and harder without a bass and drums. He couldn’t coast, and it really took its toll’. However, there is not a trace of that in what was eventually issued.

This is a great album for Barron. His solo on ‘There is No Greater Love’ is a masterclass on piano styles where he movies styles from the twenties to the thirties and forties. He plays bop on ‘The Surrey With The Fringe on Top. He shows sensitivity on ‘Softly As In A Morning Sunrise’. Above all, there is the amazing rapport between the two men.

The Getz interpretation of Charlie Haden’s ‘First Song’ is one of the most beautiful pieces captured during the engagement. Getz rises to the beauty of the composition as he also does on ‘I’ll Remember Clifford’. He can even be amusing at times. ‘ I thought you’d never ask!’ he said when the audience demanded an encore. The jaunty driving side is also there, wailing through ‘There Is No Greater Love’. This is Getz displaying all aspects of his mastery. Someone once tried to dismiss him and his preference for the higher notes by saying that he was an alto saxophone player trapped in a tenor saxophone. Getz goes well beyond that: there is vehemence, ferocity and power that could fill a concert hall without amplification. All the nuances of the style are there, the shift from wistfulness to anger, to beauty, all in a few bars.

After three nights of the engagement, they had created enough material and Getz wanted to finish the engagement. But he was persuaded to continue. He did for a while but he had to stop. Getz went on to Paris: played one concert then returned to California. He died in California on June 6th 1991.

Getz angered many people in his life but he created so much beauty. Compared to Hemingway, Getz had much more pressure and infinitely more grace.