Stan Getz ‘The Bossa Nova Years’ 5CD (Verve) 5/5

With the fiftieth anniversary of the advent of the bossa nova sound, we have a timely reminder in this five-CD box set of Stan Getz’s contribution to the genre. Bossa nova mania hit the US in the mid-1960s as both and musical and dance craze, and every conceivable artist from pop to easy listening music recorded their fair share. Within the jazz sphere, the likes of Dizzy Gillespie and the Paul Winter sextet were more successful than most. However, the unquestioned master interpreter was Stan Getz. Over a series of five albums, he explored its various forms and in so doing showcased some of the new and classic composers of Brazilian music, notably the creative genius that was Antonio Carlos (more affectionately known by Brazilians as Tom)Jobim. Bossa nova and Getz were made for each other and the music fitted like a glove into his expanding repertoire. When re-assessing the albums as a whole, the vastness of the enterprise readily becomes apparent. Getz recorded all five LPs within a two year period before setting off on lengthy tours around the globe to popularise the sound. Of the earliest recordings, the debut, ‘Jazz Samba’ has a special place. From the opening bass solo on ‘Desafinado’, it heralded a new wave of sound that would have an unprecedented impact on music.

Thereafter Brazilian music would be primarily associated with this fusion of jazz and samba. The collaboration with guitarist Charlie Byrd was very much a vision of bossa nova from an American perspective, but one in which the reflective musings of Byrd and the contemplative wailing of Getz were visionary on pieces such as ‘Samba Triste’. In contrast the big-band outing ‘Big Band Bossa Nova’ served as an introduction to the orchestral skills of Gary McFarland who delivered here on his early promise and included the additional talent of guitarist Jim Hall and pianist Hank Jones. Getz and Mc Farland were possibly inspired by the Gil Evans and Miles Davis collaboration on ‘Sketches of Spain’ and Getz is on top form on the original bossa tune ‘Chega de Saudade’ and the delightful ‘Bim Bom’. For sheer unadulterated pleasure, however, the album recorded with guitarist Laurindo Almeida, comprising lesser-known tunes is a revelation to this writer’s ears. This was a magical collaboration helped in no small measure by the outstanding Brazilian percussionist including Edison Machado on drums. This sound might now be termed hard bossa and it was ironic that it took a native of Sao Paulo (Rio being the home of bossa nova) to unlock the genie from the bottle. Tracks such as ‘Outra Vez’ and ‘Maracatu-too’ are testimony to this superlative duo in action. Of the remaining two albums, ‘Getz/Gilberto’ is, of course, a well-loved old chestnut and one that includes the vocal genius that is Joao Gilberto. Nobody typified the voice of bossa nova better. Curiously, though, it was his then wife Astrid who scored a worldwide hit with Getz on the unforgettable ‘Girl from Ipanema’. A final album, following up on the earlier success of the Getz/Byrd album, ‘Jazz Samba Encore’, this time with the collaboration of guitarist Luis Bonfa, met with more critical acclaim. The 5 CD set is attractively packaged in case with separate digipak gatefold sleeves, original notes and graphics. No extra tracks.

Tim Stenhouse

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