April may well be the cruellest month but February is right up in the paint cards when we’re talking cold and miserable, and when I feel it’s time my ears got their ashes hauled I check to see if Chris Ingham’s in town. If so I break out the buffalo robe and hitch up the team.
As luck would have it he blew in from Suffolk on 10th February to lay a new album on us at Pizza Express and it’s definitely out of the right bottle. “Stan Getz: A Musical Portrait” might seem a tad long-winded but that’s before you realise that the wind is being funnelled through the bell of the tenor owned and operated by Mark Crooks, a cat who long ago learned which end to blow and places those crotchets and demi-semi-quavers where they will do the most good. Lending sterling support is not only Chris himself, who plays a lot of piano if anybody asks you – it’s got eighty-nine keys – but also the redoubtable bass of Arnie Somogyi and drums of George Double.
Getz devoted a fair proportion of his 45-year career to reproducing ballads in an exquisite tone and I was in Hawg Heaven from the first, pure notes of “Moonlight In Vermont” that tripped out of Mark’s bell and made their way on gossamer wings to the rear of the room. There they held their breath until the foursome had segued into and through the old warhorse “Shine”.
The blowing was punctuated by commentary from Chris, who provided a thumbnail biography that covered Getz’s professional life from roughly 1943 (his mid-teens) until 1991 when he more or less died in harness, still blowing – and turning out some of his best sounds – at the age of 64.
The gig served to remind us of some of the “names” with whom Getz played, and given the style for which he is most celebrated it’s a tad surprising to learn that his initial mentor – when Getz was around 15 – was old gutbucket himself, Jack Teagarden. But before long Getz was part of the Four Brothers band of Woody Herman where he cut arguably his first hit record, Ralph Burns’ “Early Autumn”. That was a highlight of the gig.
The closest thing to a reservation that I have about the whole enchilada is that Chris, who invariably accompanies himself in song, chose to keep silent for both sets which, given the exquisite lyric that Johnny Mercer crafted for “Early Autumn”, was a great pity. Having said that we were there to honour Mr. Getz – not just an instrumentalist but a superb one.
Getz enjoy something of a second career almost by accident when he recorded an album in Washington, forgot about it until it was released and thus unleashed a new sound on the world – the bossa nova. We got all of this and more at Pizza including lesser-known Getz fare such as “Voyage”, “Signal” and “Split Kick”. It really was a gig worth leaving the fireside for.