Review

STAN GETZ Blue Skies

Album · 1995 · Post Bop
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5/5 ·
Steve Wyzard
A QUIET MIRACLE

Why did Concord Records wait 13 years to release this magnificent album? Recorded in 1982 at the same sessions that produced the Pure Getz album, Blue Skies did not see release until 1995, four years after Stan's death. The label did an impeccable job with a superlative package, a slipcover, and an endorsement from Stan's son Steve, but the mystery remains as to why it was held back.

Don't for a moment believe this is an "outtakes" album. The six tracks work perfectly together and the four standards all figured prominently in concert performance over the last 10 years of Stan's life. While listening to Blue Skies, adjectives such as light, airy, ruminative, and leisurely may come to mind, but don't dismiss this as an easy-listening, MOR album. Yes, the emphasis is on beautiful ballads, but the uptempo Jim McNeely composition "There We Go" will quickly awaken those who may find themselves "drifting off". Pianist McNeely easily receives just as much soloing space as Stan does, and bassist Marc Johnson makes major contributions throughout, with solos on three tracks. Accusations of austerity are brushed aside with the whimsical take of the title track: the group is clearly having a good time.

Perhaps knowing Stan didn't live to see this album released lends the music a sense of haunted nostalgia. Drummer Billy Hart's brushes are all over these sessions, but that doesn't entirely explain the ethereal, summer-afternoon stillness that's almost palpable. Comparisons with Pure Getz will find Blue Skies more introverted and quieter, yet this album seems far more definitive and intrinsic to Stan's personal style. There are no dirges on Blue Skies, but anyone looking for an aural punch in the gut like Pure Getz's "On the Up and Up" have come to the wrong place.

Posthumous albums still get a bad rap. If the recordings were so good, the skeptic wonders, why weren't they released immediately? There are thousands of reasons/explanations/excuses, and the situations may vary, but when dealing with an iconic yet polarizing figure like Stan Getz, the answers grow even more complicated. Stan recorded so much with a multitude of players in a multitude of locations for a multitude of labels in widely varying genres. To this day he still has a devoted following, but his erratic recorded legacy has not made him hip with the trendsetters and namedroppers. That we still have in print today a quiet masterpiece like Blue Skies (despite its inauspicious start and late release date) is quite simply a minor miracle. Regardless of availability or popularity, this will always be an album to cherish, and one for the ages.
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