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The Steamer

Poll Winners Records
PWR 27325



1. Blues For Mary Jane

2. There Will Never Be Another You

3. You’re Blasé

4. Too Close For Comfort

5. Like Someone In Love

6. How About You?

7. How About You? (alternate take)

8. Of Thee I Sing

9. A Handful Of Stars

10. Love Is Here To Stay

11. Serenade In Blue

12. Of Thee I Sing (alternate take)

13. Love Is Here To Stay (alternate take)

Stan Getz - Tenor sax

Lou Levy - Piano

Leroy Vinnegar - Bass

Stan Levey – Drums (tracks 1-7)

Shelly Manne – Drums (tracks 8-13)

The Stan Getz of these 1955 and 1956 sessions was emerging from a series of personal tragedies. Starting in February 1954, he spent six months in jail for drug possession which, from all reports, was the first time as an adult he was free from both drugs and alcohol. In February 1955, Stan’s then wife Beverley and their three children, were driving from Los Angeles to join Stan in Kansas City, when they were involved in a serious automobile accident, that almost took the life of one of Getz’s children. Shaken by these events, Getz made a conscious effort to get his life in order, and the two sessions presented here Stan Getz and the Cool Sounds and The Steamer were part of that process.

Although these albums were recorded only fifteen months apart, in many ways Getz’s tone was noticeably different. In the ’55 offering, he is in the moment with a deeper, softer, rounder sound. Starting with Of Thee I Sing which is offered at a sprightly tempo, Getz never strays too far from the melody, using phrases that are easily identified in a legato mode. Pianist Lou Levy was one of Stan’s cohorts from the Woody Herman Second Herd in 1948. His single-note style was very much reflective of what was happening on the West Coast, with contemporaries such as Russ Freeman and Hampton Hawes. His solos were economical, and his comping behind Getz was exemplary. The gem of these tracks is Serenade In Blue which was one of Glenn Miller’s hits. After a brief intro from Levy, Stan takes over for a chorus, which is filled with warmth and airiness that came to define his tone.

The Steamer, which is the focus of this release, is a stunning album with the same supporting personnel, although Stan Levey is the drummer rather than Shelly Manne. The opening track Blues For Mary Jane (jazz shorthand for marijuana) shows Stan’s tone had evolved into a brighter more open sound but still showing the Lester Young influence. Levy was playing with authority, full of ideas and unafraid to express them. Vinnegar was a solid walking bassist with a strong tone all of which he demonstrates in his brief solo. The longest track in this session is There Will Never Be Another You. Getz states the opening verse with a solid run-through. After that he dances around the melody, demonstrating his masterful technique and inspired ideas, to move the tune forward. Levy takes an extended solo full of bravado and expressiveness, which is followed by an exchange of eights between drummer Levey and Getz, and then Levy and Levey. Getz then closes out the composition with a run-through of the melody.

The rarely played Ord Hamilton/Bruce Sievier number Youre Blasé is a perfect foil for Getz to embellish his ideas in this wonderful ballad. The Burton Lane/Ralph Freed standard How About You? closes the album. The song is showcased in two versions, neither of which varies much from each other, except the alternate take is twenty-five seconds shorter. Regardless of one’s preference, they both are sensational. Getz is in full swing mode, playing with energy, wit and enthusiasm. Levy’s comping behind him has all the right changes, which adds to the tune’s interest. Both bassist Vinnegar and drummer Levey play with an intensity that pushes both Getz and Levy to expand their creative ideas. All in all these cuts make for a first-rate album.

Donald L. Maggin in his biography of Stan Getz entitled Stan Getz - A Life In Music offers the following self-appraisal from Getz: ”My life is music. Happiness to me is only a by-product of this constant reaching and reshaping.“

Pierre Giroux

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