1961 was the year before Stan Getz's and Charlie Byrd's smash Jazz Samba recording appeared. The album's success netted an influence so imposing it impacted the direction of the saxophonist's creative life. Before this, there was scant recorded evidence to document where Getz was headed after he returned to America from a three-year sojourn in Copenhagen. Getz recorded Focus with Eddie Sauter in the summer of 1961, and in the fall, Stan Getz & Bob Brookmeyer: Recorded Fall 1961 was recorded with the other members of his "Boston Band": drummer Roy Haynes, pianist Steve Kuhn, and bassist John Neves. This group was captured at the Village Gate in November. Earlier that year, Getz formed a quartet with bassist Scott LaFaro that included Kuhn and drummer Pete LaRoca. By early March, Haynes (after the bassist's lobbying) was in the drum chair. On July 3, the quartet performed to a standing ovation at Newport; three days later, LaFaro was killed in an accident. Two weeks later, the saxist engaged Neves. Simultaneously, John Coltrane replaced Getz at the top of the tenor polls in 1961. His new directions -- monitored by Getz in Europe -- influenced the more muscular direction employed here that would evaporate on Focus and Jazz Samba. In addition, Kuhn had worked with 'Trane before McCoy Tyner.
In the vaults for 58 years, these tapes contain every note of the quartet's scorching performance in New York. Getz's rich tone, fleet soloing, and driving rhythmic pursuit are displayed early in a storming, bop-pish read of Cole Porter's "It's Alright with Me." Getz and company also display their muscle in semi-modernist, back to back reads of Coltrane's "Impressions" (that Kuhn had played in the 'Trane band) and Sonny Rollins' "Airegin." But the swing isn't missing: it is amply displayed during the first set in buoyant, good-natured takes of Van Heusen's and Burke's "Like Someone in Love," and Gigi Gryce's "Wildwood." A flaming read of Dizzy Gillespie's "Woody 'n You" features stunning work from Kuhn, followed by the ten-and-a-half-minute jam "Blues." The second set commences with the ballad "Where Do You Go?" followed by "Yesterday's Gardenias," a lithe midtempo swinger with some of Getz's most lyrical improvising in the concert. The standards continue with "Stella by Starlight" as Haynes double times the band with a cut-time shuffle, as well as a silky version of the ballad highlight "Spring Can Really Hang You Up the Most," which is the most soulful recorded performance by the saxophonist. The show closes with a juxtaposition of early modernism -- Thelonious Monk's "52nd St. Theme" anthem -- and a nod to Getz's greatest influence Lester Young with a blues-drenched "Jumping with Symphony Sid." The sound on Getz at the Gate is warm, full, and crystalline, and the package contains a fine Bob Blumenthal liner essay. This concert is a major find: It shines a bright light on a historically obscure, musically adventurous period in Getz's career, one that represents the road not taken. ~ Thom Jurek