Getz At The Gate was recorded in late November, 1961, at New York’s Village Gate, and features the same quartet that appeared on Focus, which was recorded in July 1961 – but not released until late January 1962 – namely pianist Steve Kuhn, bass player John Neves and drummer Roy Haynes.
The concert was recorded professionally by Verve, with a view to eventually releasing a live album. The album was shelved, however, presumably because of the success of Getz’s bossa nova recordings from 1962. Remember, Jazz Samba was recorded in February 1962, just a few weeks after this gig, and swiftly followed by the follow-up, Big Band Bossa Nova.
1961 was Stan Getz at something of a crossroads in his long career. He had just returned from living in Europe, and his profile in the US was not as high as it had been at the height of the West Coast jazz boom in the mid-1950s. Moreover, the emergence of a more modern sound, as personified by John Coltrane, probably left Getz uncertain as to which direction he should be taking.
The saxophonist rightly regarded Focus as being one of the highlights of his career, but Getz would have realised that such an album, recorded with strings, was probably a one-off. His new quartet, meanwhile, seemed intent on pushing Getz in the direction of a more modern sound. Steve Kuhn, for example, had just finished playing with John Coltrane’s quartet – he was Coltrane’s pianist before McCoy Tyner.
Getz At The Gate sees the saxophonist experimenting with a more aggressive new sound, whilst revisiting some of his recordings from the 1950s, too.
Examples of the former include John Coltrane’s Impressions and Airegin, by Sonny Rollins, while the latter include more familiar Getz tunes such as Like Someone In Love and Spring Can Really Hang You Up The Most.
There are also some real rarities here. This is the only known recording by Getz of Cole Porter’s It’s All Right With Me and Dick Robertson’s Yesterday’s Gardenias, plus the saxophonist revisit’s Wildwood by Gigi Gryce, which he had not recorded for ten years.
The sound quality is excellent, with the exception of the spoken introduction, which is muffled and off mike. Getz At The Gate helps us to fill in a missing piece of the puzzle, and whilst Getz sounds at ease on the more modern numbers here, one can’t help but feel that the bossa nova that followed was the right path for him to follow.