Stan Getz – best known as America’s tenor sax master of the Bossa Nova – here creates a different kind of Latin fusion that’s light on the fusion and heavy on the beauty. But those who come to him familiar only with the Getz/Gilberto albums might be in for a bit of a shock in hearing the less laid back approach he uses here. It’s something he’d done before in his pre-Bossa, “cool jazz” work for the Savoy and Verve labels that flirted with bebop, but is nowhere to be found on the creamy tones employed when he’s creating a Brazilian/jazz hybrid alongside his partners João Gilberto or Charlie Byrd. But even while he’s taking a more overt rhythmic approach there is no loss of the lovely lines he develops – that’s simply pure Getz, him doing what he’s best at.
Aiding and abetting him here are three Miles Davis alumni – miraculous drummer Tony Williams, Brazilian percussionist Airto Moreira, and keyboardist Chick Corea, whose Fender Rhodes electric piano and whose compositions (spiced with what Corea called “My Spanish Heart” on one of his own albums) set the real flavor of the album – and rounding out the group is bassist Stanley Clarke, only 20 at the time of the recording. With these former Miles sidemen, it would be understandable to fear some of the notoriously brilliant fusion experiments that the great trumpeter was creating at the time, but Getz and Corea here have something less forbidding in mind, with uptempo Latin grooves dominating the album and the only audible touch of what would become known as “fusion” in Corea’s deferential Rhodes keyboards – even Stanley Clarke, soon to become one of the masters of the electric bass, is here all acoustic. But a fusion it is regardless – fusing a post-bop structure with Corea’s affinity for Latin rhythms, augmented by Tony Williams’ impeccable drumming and Airto’s sometimes complementary, sometimes otherworldly percussion accents.
And what about Getz himself? As noted, even with a more urgent rhythmic delivery spurred by his band here, he still keeps melody at the forefront and delivers the long, lyrical lines that are his hallmark throughout. And when he’s given a pair of ballads in the second half – Corea’s “Times Lie” (which kicks off as a ballad and then starts chugging once Getz lays out before returning to its mellower beginnings) and Billy Strayhorn’s classic “Lush Life” – those who know Getz from his Bossa Nova stylings will find a very familiar vibe to this record. And as a bonus, the CD includes a track recorded at the sessions that didn’t make the original album – Corea’s duet with Getz on the absolutely gorgeous “Crystal Silence” which includes a few mild interjections from Airto, but mostly finds the two players talking back and forth at the height of their powers. There are those who prefer Getz’s earlier, similarly styled collaboration with Corea, Sweet Rain, but for me the presence of Tony Williams here trumps it, makes this a more exciting collaboration overall, and Corea’s “La Fiesta” that opens this album is a show-stopper that the fine earlier album can’t touch. But they’re both pretty great – check ‘em both out.
- Patrick Brown