Stanley Getz was born on February 2, 1927 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania but moved to New York City with his parents during The Depression. In school he was a straight A student finishing 6th grade close to the top of his class but his major interest was in musical instruments, and he felt a need to play every instrument in sight.
He played a number of them before his father bought him his first saxophone at the age of 13 and began practicing eight hours a day. Attending James Monroe High School, got accepted in the All City High School Orchestra of New York City, giving him a chance to receive private, free tutoring from the New York Philharmonic’s bassoonist, Simon Kovar.
By 1943 at age 16, he was accepted into Jack Teagarden’s band, becoming his ward because of his age. Getz also played along with Nat King Cole and Lionel Hampton, and after playing for Stan Kenton, Jimmy Dorsey, and Benny Goodman he became the Woody Herman’s soloist for two years in The Second Herd. Known as The Four Brothers alongside Serge Chaloff, Zoot Sims and Herbie Steward, he gained notoriety. Leaving Herman to strike out on his solo career, he led almost all of his recording sessions after 1950. However, it was during this period that having become involved with drugs and alcohol while a teenager, he was arrested in 1954 while attempting to rob a pharmacy to get a morphine fix.
Stan’s reputation was greatly enhanced by his featured status on Johnny Smith’s album Moonlight In Vermont and the single became a hit, staying on the charts for months. He went on to further popularity playing cool jazz with Horace Silver, Smith, Oscar Peterson and others. In his various bands were Roy Haynes, Al Haig, Tommy Potter, Dizzy Gillespie, Herb Ellis, Ray Brown and Max Roach.
In 1961 Getz became a central figure in introducing bossa nova to the American audience, teaming with guitarist Charlie Byrd who had just returned from Brazil. His album Jazz Samba with Charlie Byrd and Antonio Carlos Jobim became a hit, winning him a Grammy for Best Jazz Performance for Desifinado in 1963 that became his first million-copy seller. He would record Big Band Bossa Nova and Jazz Samba Encore! with Luiz Bonfa and get his second gold disc.
He recorded the album Getz/Gilberto with Jobim, Joao Gilberto and Astrud Gilberto winning two more Grammys for The Girl From Ipanema. What could have been a long partnership with his love affair with Astrud Gilberto, moving him away from bossa nova and back to cool jazz. By 1972, he recorded in the fusion idiom with Chick Corea, Tony Williams and Stanley Clarke.
In the mid-1980s he worked regularly in the San Francisco Bay area and taught at Stanford University as an artist-in-residence at the Stanford Jazz Workshop. In 1986, he was inducted into the Down Beat Jazz Hall of Fame. Tenor saxophonist Stan Getz died of liver cancer on June 6, 1991.
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