AKA Stanley Gayetzby
Birthplace: Philadelphia, PA
Location of death: Malibu, CA
Cause of death: Cancer - Liver
Remains: Cremated (ashes scattered in the Pacific Ocean)
Race or Ethnicity: White
Sexual orientation: Straight
Occupation: Jazz Musician
Nationality: United States
Executive summary: Jazz tenor saxophonist
The son of Ukrainian immigrants, Stanley Gayetzby (Getz) was born in Philadelphia but spent most of his childhood in the Bronx. During his adolescent years he quickly identified himself as a musical prodigy, taking up the harmonica at age 12 and then switching to the bass for six months before receiving his first alto saxophone at 13. In high school Stanley was talked into taking up the bassoon, and mastered the instrument so quickly that a year later he was selected to play in New York's All-City High School Orchestra, an ensemble that featured the area's best players in his age group. After a period of study with New York Philharmonic bassoonist Simon Kovar the promising young windsman was offered a scholarship to Julliard, but it was too late: the wicked urges of jazz had already taken hold of his innocent soul and Stanley passed up the offer in favor of a new tenor sax and a membership in the local musician's union.
At the age of 15 Getz landed his first professional job working for Dick Rogers at the Roseland Ballroom, but this position was abruptly terminated when it was discovered that he was underage. A chance meeting with Jack Teagarden the following year resulted in an immediate invitation to join his orchestra on tour, and with his father's approval young Stanley dropped out of school and dedicated himself full-time to a career in music. Eventually, the bandleader was compelled to assume legal guardianship of his new musician in order to keep him in the group. After nine months Getz left Teagarden's band and settled in Los Angeles, where he worked short, successive stints with Bob Chester and Stan Kenton while supporting himself as a hat salesman. An equally short tenure with Jimmy Dorsey's orchestra was followed by an opportunity to lead his own trio at Hollywood's Swing Club, but ultimately Getz returned to New York and joined forced with Benny Goodman in 1945.
Between 1945 and 1946 Getz participated in a number of studio sessions with Goodman, one of which featured his first recorded solo. It was during this time that Getz made his first recordings as a bandleader for the New Jersey-based be-bop label Savoy Records, which were subsequently issued as Opus de Bop (1945) and as part of the label's various artists bop collections. He was fired by Goodman in 1946, after which singer Beverly Stewart -- soon to be Getz's wife -- arranged a job with her own bandleader Randy Brooks. In 1947 the saxophonist returned to California, and it was here that he arrived at what would become his trademark sound, developed while playing with a four-piece saxophone section in a band that eventually operated under the leadership of Tommy DeCarlo; this sax quartet format was later adopted by Woody Herman, and came to be known as "The Four Brothers" (taken from the name of a tune performed by the band). Under Herman the line-up consisted of Getz, Zoot Sims, Herbie Steward, and Serge Chaloff.
It was Stan's solo on the Ralph Burns composition Early Autumn, originally issued on Woody Herman's Capitol collection The Great Big Band in 1948, that cemented the then-21-year-old sax player's musical reputation. By the time this had happened, Getz had already left Herman's band and moved back to New York, and this sudden rise in popularity allowed him to establish his own group -- initially a quartet, but soon expanded to a quintet with the addition of guitarist Jimmy Raney. He also took a staff job at NBC, which led to his introduction to another guitarist, Johnny Smith; Smith invited Getz to participate in a session for the Roost label, released in 1952 as Moonlight In Vermont. Their version of the title track subsequently became one of the year's most successful jazz recordings. All these positive career developments would be interrupted by problems in his personal life, however: Getz had long been in the grip of a serious addiction to heroin, and in 1954 was arrested while attempting to rob a pharmacy to feed his habit.
Getz continued to work in the quintet format (although with frequent personnel changes) throughout the mid-1950s, releasing his recordings through a variety of different labels: The Artistry of Stan Getz (1953) on Clef, Stan Getz and the Cool Sounds (1953) and The Steamer (1956) on Verve, The Lighthouse Sessions (1953) on Vantage, and Stan Getz at the Shrine (1954), the Interpretations series and several other on Norgran. The busy musician also maintained an active schedule of collaborations, working with Chet Baker, Norman Grantz, Dizzy Gillespie, Count Basie and Lionel Hampton. His first marriage ultimately disintegrated as a result of his drug problems, and in 1956 he married Monica Silfverskiold, a Swedish native and member of the country's aristocracy. In 1958 Getz moved his base of operations to Denmark in an attempt to overcome his addictions, where he spent the remainder of the decade performing with fellow re-located Americans such as drummer Kenny Clarke and bassist/cellist Oscar Pettiford, as well as a variety of Scandinavian musicians.
Shortly after his return to the States in 1961, Getz achieved another benchmark in his music career when he helped to initiate the bossa nova craze alongside guitarist Charlie Byrd. Their album Jazz Samba (1962) became the second highest-selling album of the year, surpassed only by The Beatles' collection A Hard Day's Night. This success was repeated in 1963 by his collaboration with Joćo Gilberto and Astrud Gilberto, the album Getz/Gilberto earning two Grammys (including "Best Album" honors) and the track The Girl From Ipanema winning the Grammy for "Record Of The Year". He continued in this vein for most of the 1960s, working in small groups with players such as Chick Corea, Gary Burton, Herbie Hancock and Ron Carter. Despite his associations with many of it's leading musicians, Getz found himself at odds with the growing free-jazz movement that was gaining prominence at the end of the decade, and removed himself to Europe for a period of minimal activity that endured until 1972.
In the 1970s Getz once again resumed his recorded output with the release of the live quartet document Dynasty (1971). His return to the studio in 1972 produced Captain Marvel, an album almost entirely built out of compositions by pianist Chick Corea and featuring the line-up of Corea, bassist Stanley Clarke, drummer Tony Williams and Latin percussionist Airto Moreira. A second effort with Joćo Gilberto (The Best of Two Worlds (1975)), a collaboration with pianist Jimmie Rowles (The Peacocks (also 1975)), a pair of live recordings with The Bill Evans Trio and a pair of albums by his own quartet brought Getz back up to speed by the middle of the decade. His musical approach took a much-criticized detour toward electric fusion with the album Another World (1977), which found him backed by electric keyboardist Andy LaVerne and using electronic processing on his own instrument; jazz purists rejected this new direction (as jazz purists always do), and after issuing a few more albums of a similar nature (Jazz Buhne Berlin '78 (1978), Children Of The World (1978), Live At Midem '80 (1980)) the bandleader returned to the more traditional bop territory he had previously occupied.
During the mid-1980s Getz moved back to California, where occupied the position of artist-in-residence at Stanford University between 1985 and 1988. He continued to record and perform during this period, adding the albums Voyage (1986), Anniversary! (1987) and Serenity (1987) to his own catalog, as well as contributing to releases by Diane Schuur, Michelle Hendricks and Barry Manilow. Despite being diagnosed with liver cancer in 1988, Getz kept active with his music until suffering a serious hemorrhage in April of 1991, having made his final public performance (and recording) with pianist Kenny Barron in Copenhagen on March 6th. He died at his home in Malibu, California two months later.
Wife: Beverly Stewart (vocalist, m. 1946, div. 1956)
Wife: Monica Silfverskiold (m. 1956, div. 1987)
Mistress: Inga Torgner
Son: Peter Torgner
High School: James Monroe High School (dropped out)
The Jack Teagarden Orchestra Saxophonist (1943)
The Bob Chester Orchestra Saxophonist (1944)
The Stan Kenton Orchestra Saxophonist (1944)
The Jimmy Dorsey Orchestra Saxophonist (1944)
The Benny Goodman Orchestra Saxophonist (1945-46)
Randy Brooks and his Orchestra Saxophonist (1946-47)
Woody Herman and the Second Herd Saxophonist (1947-49)
Big Band and Jazz Hall of Fame 1983
Grammy Best Jazz Performance - Soloist Or Small Group (Instrumental) (for Desafinado) (1962)
Grammy Best Instrumental Jazz Performance - Small Group Or Soloist With Small Group (for Getz/Gilberto, with Joćo Gilberto) (1964)
Grammy Album Of The Year (for Getz/Gilberto, with Joćo Gilberto) (1964)
Grammy Record Of The Year (for The Girl From Ipanema, with Joćo Gilberto) (1964)
Grammy Best Jazz Instrumental Solo (for I Remember You) (1991)
Attempted Robbery 1954
Risk Factors: Alcoholism, Heroin
FILMOGRAPHY AS ACTOR
The Exterminator (19-Sep-1980) · Himself
Get Yourself a College Girl (18-Dec-1964) · Himself
The Benny Goodman Story (Dec-1955) · Himself
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