Stan Getz on Doubling

Dangerously close to letting a week go by with no blog post but here we go. I recently ordered a few CD’s from the label that will be putting out my next record in 2017, Fresh Sound. Known by many of my peers as a label for new releases of young jazz musicians, they have an extensive catalogue of reissues. A double CD of Stan Getz live at the Hi-Hat in Boston was the highlight of this order. The band features Bob Brookmeyer on valve trombone, Duke Jordan on piano, Bill Crow on the bass and Al Levitt on the drums.

Stan Getz Quintet in Boston


This was a band that Jimmy Giuffre said was the best he had ever heard. The recording quality is a little rough in spots, but it’s great to hear Bill Crow at the beginning of his recording career in 1953. Sounds as great then as he does now! Stan is taking chances, with repertoire, overtone effects and harmonic choices. Brookmeyer is always a great motivic improviser to listen to, and this is apparently his recording debut, as all of these players were in their mid 20s at the time.

While listening to this CD I was reminded of a pair of quotes from Stan that I recalled from the excellent bio by Donald Maggin. Lately, the more I carry around different horns and become known as a doubler, I can sometimes relate to these sentiments.

In 1952 Stan took a chance to come off the road and work in the NBC radio and TV studios. Some may not know that he played bassoon as a teenager and had hopes of playing in orchestras. In a Down Beat interview at this time, this is what Stan had to say about the experience:

I can imagine some guys finding this kind of work dull, but to me it’s great. On “The Kate Smith Show,” for instance, I had to play baritone, tenor, clarinet and bass clarinet. On “The Jane Pickens Show” I play clarinet only. Once I even played some jazz clarinet.

The other night I did “The Cameo Television Theater Show.” I was the only musician on it. There I was, all by myself playing bass clarinet. I had to create some themes, mood music to hold the sequences together…

One of the nice things about this job is that I get to hear the NBC symphony at work. (This would be with Toscanini at the time correct? Ed.)I’d like to play bassoon in the Symphony. I’m going to start playing bassoon on the pop programs as soon as I’ve studied some…

But Stan quit just a couple of months later, and had this to say about it years later:

It was just horrible. I was more like a technician than a musician-just press the right button at the right time, that’s it. I used to double on all sorts of things; I’d play clarinet, bass clarinet, alto, tenor, baritone. After about three months of it, I began taking bookings with the quintet-I think Jimmy Raney was on the band at the time.

I would work from 12 to 5 on the Kate Smith show, an afternoon television spectacular, and then catch a plane for Rochester or wherever. So I was working seven nights and five days a week, flying back and forth every day. Or if we worked, say, in Atlantic City, where there’s no plane, I’d drive…four hours there and back. After a while I just got fed up and gave up the studio work.

I always found this to be an accurate and amusing account of some of the dilemmas we all go through as players in the city. I think we can all be thankful that Stan stuck to his jazz gigs, this Boston recording being made just one year later.

Stan Getz playing the bassoon as a teenager.
Stan Getz playing the bassoon as a teenager.

On a side note, I’m considering calling this blog the 9:20 special, in honor of the great Basie tune. Comments and alternate suggestions welcome!

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