On two Jazz at the Philharmonic concerts, tenor saxophonist Stan Getz and trombonist J.J. Johnson (backed by the Oscar Peterson Trio plus drummer Connie Kay) performed an identical repertoire during the two sets of music, one recorded in mono and the other in stereo. All of the music from those dates (with the exception of one number left out due to lack of space) is included on this very exciting release: two versions apiece of "Billie's Bounce," "My Funny Valentine," "Crazy Rhythm," and "Blues in the Closet" plus one try at "Yesterdays" and "It Never Entered My Mind." Surprisingly Oscar Peterson and guitarist Herb Ellis do not solo at all but Getz and Johnson make a perfect combination and are in peak form. Bebop at its best, it has plenty of up-tempo jamming and no shortage of ideas.
- Scott Yanow (All Music Guide)
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Try it tonight. Catch a set at some jazz spot. The players appear to be a cohesive group presenting seemingly pre-deter-mined selections as a well rehearsed recital, Now go ask the musicians how the tunes were picked and the tempos set. The answers may surprise you: there might not be any! As you uncover how casually the program was pieced together, you may also uncover that the participants are casual acquaintances. That's the story of - and for the most part, the glory of - the Jazz bandstand. An ad hoc ensemble whose members would be hard pressed to explain how the music came together just minutes after the gig. Yet they'll know, and you probably will too, whether their show clicked or not.
You now hold the recorded music of a virtually once in a lifetime unit co-headed by Stan Getz and J.J. Johnson. Two sets by the same band, and a show that truly clicked!
Norman Granz had the good intuition to pair Stan Getz and J.J. Johnson for his 1957 Jazz At The Philharmonic tour. As part of a huge package, the two took part in the jam session and the finale, but by backing them with an all-star rhythm section, the producer Granz created a defacto Getz-Johnson band. This group held a featured spot in all the concerts.
Stan Getz and J.J. Johnson were both considered preeminent soloists of the New Jazz of the 1940s yet both had continued (and continue) to sound contemporary. Getz and Johnson both had solid roots in the earlier Big Band Tradition. Stan Getz had played with the orchestras of Jack Teagarden, Stan Kenton. Benny Goodman, and Woody Herman, while J J. Johnson had sparked the now forgotten Snookum Russell Orchestra (Fats Navarro was another teenaged member) before joining Benny Carter at 19 and Count Basic at 21.
This coupling is also of interest in the context of Norman Granz' JATP J.J. Johnson had blown at the first concert back on July 2.19441 Stan Getz had just joined the pack and represented Norman's capability of updating JATP with fresh faces and shifting motifs. Of course, it never hurts to add a big name to an all-star lineup. The trombone-tenor voicing was also unusual.
Comparing different performances of the same piece has long been a key to the understanding of jazz soloists. The first three decades of jazz recording provided numerous instances of comparative listening.
These possibilities decreased dramatically when reusable erasable tape replaced permanent one-time-only discs as the medium of recording. The 1957 JATP tour was recorded and on tape. The issued Lps have always been marketed as "Jazz At The Opera House." The September 29, 1957 concerts at Chicago's Civic Opera were indeed a highlight of the tour, and should be further singled out as an early instance of a stereo location recording. Nevertheless, about half the music issued as "Jazz At The Opera House" was performed elsewhere and recorded in mono. Bingo! This compact disc, which gives you both concerts, gives us the opportunity to compare different versions of the same tunes done at separate concerts. The concerts recorded in mono are just as exciting as their stereo counterparts with creative ideas flowing easily from the master musicians Stan Getz and J.J, Johnson.
How was this set decided upon? Many gigs lead off with the blues. Getz and Johnson kick off this one with a bebop blues, Charlie Porker's classic Billie's Bounce. It must have been the opening kick-off too. because neither Stan nor JJ had recorded it before. Likewise for My Funny Valentine. This remains Stan Getz's only dabbling with the Richard Rodgers favorite, while J.J.'s ballad Interpretation of the tune lay nearly 7 years in the future, and he didn't record it with Kai Winding until April 16.1963. Playing Crazy Rhythm was probably Stan Getz's idea. He'd been using this tune for years, first recording it on July 28,1953, but this 1957 Crazy Rhythm is the first in J.J. Johnson's dis-cography Romance past and present is represented by the ballads. Yesterdays was the first ballad J J. Johnson recorded under his own name (December 24, 1947). while Stan Getz had just started thinking about If Never Entered My Mind, Stan had used it for his portion of a ballad medley recorded August 1,1957 (issued on Jazz Giants '58), The mono version released here is his definitive performance of the tune. The closer Blues In The Closet brings producer Norman Granz out in the open. I think Norman was a sucker for this Oscar Peffiford composition, having had it recorded for his various labels. But it is a first in both Getz's and Johnson's discographies.