Recorded August 1957 in Hollywood
Award Winner reunites Stan Getz with his mid-'50s right-hand men pianist Lou Levy and bassist Leroy Vinnegar, plus drummer Stan Levey, who sat in with the trio on 1956's The Steamer. Not surprisingly, it's quite similar to that effort, as the quartet keeps thing alternately cool, swinging ballads, and simmering, low-key grooves. It's the sound that made Getz' reputation and brought him popularity, a fact alluded to in the set's title. In retrospect, that can make Award Winner seem like standard-issue Getz, since it is straight-up Stan, with no surprises. Still, that's a very good thing, since few other tenor saxophonists had such a deft touch with laid-back, sensual cool jazz. Each cut on the six-track album feels sensual, even when the tempo is fleet on the side-closers "Smiles" and "This Can't Be Love." Everyone involved sounds as if they're enjoying themselves, and that results in a solid record that may have a few outstanding moments here and there - a nice turn of phrase by Getz, a good solo from Levy, supple support from Vinnegar and Levey - but is more distinguished by its overall strength and consistency of mood. Not necessarily a knockout, then, but certainly a record any true Getz fan would want in their collection. [Award Winner was released as a Verve Master Edition in 2000, containing nine bonus tracks, including four false starts and a track's worth of inserts. The real treat are the non-LP cuts from the same session, "All God's Chillun Got Rhythm" and "But Beautiful," which live up to the standard of the original LP, plus alternate takes of "Woody N You" and "Time after Time." All of this music is also available on the three-disc set, East of the Sun: The West Coast Sessions.
All Music Guide
On this reissued 1957 session, Stan Getz is joined by pianist Lou Levy, bassist Leroy Vinnegar, and drummer Stan Levey. Getz's sublime tone and flawlessly swinging solos don't even require comment. He reaches Rollins-level heights of cleverness and fire on a nine-minute-plus version of "This Can't Be Love." Lou Levy shares much of the spotlight with the award winner himself, turning in one excellent piano solo after another. The entire group is featured to full effect on a burning rendition of "Three Little Words."
The most unusual aspect of the reissue package is the inclusion not only of two alternate takes, but also five false starts and five "inserts" - song endings recorded for splicing purposes - on "Woody 'n' You." The public release of archival material such as this continues to spark debate. Do false starts, inserts and the like give us greater insight into our favorite players, or are they just another symptom of cyber-age information overload? There's some truth on both sides. Added tracks can seem pointless, and they tend to disrupt the flow of a record, even when placed after the final track of the original program. Yet warts-and-all outtakes can perhaps shed new light on the mundane aspects of music-making. Some listeners might feel inexplicably enriched, for instance, hearing Leroy Vinnegar begin "Time After Time" in the wrong key on track 13.
Even more important, given the way jazz has been underappreciated and neglected, shouldn't we have too much of it rather than too little? Why let potentially interesting material rot in the vaults? We should probably be glad someone cares enough to dust it off.