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Stan Getz: A Life in Jazz Paperback – August 20, 1997

4.4 out of 5 stars 20 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

When he was 16, Stan Getz was touring with Jack Teagarden. He won his first Down Beat reader's poll when he was 23. In the early 1960s, he helped inaugurate the bossa nova craze with his recordings of "Desafinado" and "The Girl from Ipanema." But there were times when he was nearly as well known for his messy personal life as his beautiful musicianship. A long-time abuser of drugs and alcohol, he was a notorious philanderer who beat his wife. Somehow, he managed to age gracefully. "The thing I will always be proud of is this," he told the New York Times not long before he died of cancer in 1991, "toward the end of my life, I became what I always should have been--a decent gentleman." --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Publishers Weekly

Maggin (Bankers, Builders, Knaves, and Thieves) chronicles the life and career of the great jazz saxophonist Getz (1927-1991), who was known especially for his sensuous tone and brilliant improvisations. Getz put his prodigious musical gifts to work early, joining Jack Teagarden's band at age 16 and moving on to Stan Kenton's group the following year. From then on, his musical fortunes never ceased to flourish. Nevertheless, his personal life was a disaster. Drugs. alcohol, depression, episodes of violence, a suicide attempt and lengthy divorce proceedings against his second wife provide a painful backdrop to the story of a consistently triumphant professional career. Maggin discusses Getz's performances and recordings (often delving into the backgrounds of many of the musicians with whom he worked) and analyzes his style and technique. While he presents the painful details of Getz's personal life, Maggin doesn't make much of an attempt to explain how Getz could have functioned so well on one level and failed so miserably on another. Photos not seen by PW.
Copyright 1996 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 432 pages
  • Publisher: Harper Perennial (August 20, 1997)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0688155553
  • ISBN-13: 978-0688155551
  • Product Dimensions: 1.2 x 6 x 9.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.1 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (20 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #545,631 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover
I read this a few years back, and it was brutal to get through, black clouds of depression lurking on every page. This is actually by way of saying that Maggin did his job well, although it couldn't have been much fun. There is account after account of a phenonenomally gifted yet self-absorbed monster who lived in a world of rationalization and evidently felt his talent justified doing unspeakable things to people (which, of course only means doing the same to oneself). You find yourself, as reader, torn: On one hand, one feels sympathy for one of the great musicians of our time who literally grew up on the road with no parental discipline (he started out, for example, at 15 with Jack Teagarden, a great player and undoubtedly a father figure to Getz, but also a notorious lush)who had to grow up fast and couldn't quite handle it. On the other, there's the aforementioned devil that the substances either created or, more likely, merely brought out. By the time Getz sincerely tried to mend his ways (a terminal illness will do it every time)the train had long left the station leaving much emotional wreckage in its wake.
But as with Charlie Parker, also widely reported to be a less-than-admirable person, we care about the art, and want to remember that. Sadly, this is where Maggin fails. He really means well, but his musical insights and prose style on the subject are, frankly, clumsy and less than helpful. He gropes for, but does not find Getz the musician or why he is so beloved. It's really simple: Getz was a fountain of melodic beauty, even as he swung his tail off. Improvising melodically sounds easy, but is one of the hardest things to do. Plus, his sound was a miracle--a force of nature.
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Format: Hardcover
As far back as I can recall, Stan Getz had always been my personal favorite jazz musician of all time. Blessed with an incredible musical memory - you just have to listen to the amount of quotes he would use during the course of a solo - he was able to render some of the most obscure lines from popular music to jazz lines to Jewish anthems. His personal sound was readily identifiable, pure,wholesome and wondrously beautiful and never filtered with sentimentality. When you heard a Getz solo there was never any mistake who was playing. Lester Young flowed through him and initially set the mold to this master jazz musician. Stan Getz carried the banner from Lester and ran with it.This book covers much of Stan Getz and his musical as well as personal life. Behind his playing was a torturous life hampered by drugs, alcohol, severe depression and anger. You would never have known this about the man after spending years of following and listening to the progressions of his performing art. Unlike the Chet Baker book this book chronologically follows his music as well as the events in his personal life. I found it inspiring to read about various recording sessions and all that was happening in his life at the time. All this while following it, by listening to the particular recording mentioned. He was a perfectionist and achieved it most of the time. If he felt his playing not to be at par this depressed him and would sadly result in dissonance for him and his family. He thought he needed to be stoned to play better. The irony is that he was throughout much of his life. Maggin mentions the many times when Stan would be inspired, either by another musician or a piece of music, that his playing would suddenly ignite and reach incredible levels of Art.Read more ›
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Format: Hardcover
Okay, I'm a fairly knowledgeable jazz buff, got lots of Stan Getz CDs. Thought I'd try a book about the man behind the incredible sounds of deep emotions. But whoa! This guy was as much a mess off the stage as Chet Baker, Charlie Parker, Art Pepper,et. al. I had NO idea!! Donald Maggin does a fine job of reporting the events as they occurred & lets us formulate our opinions about this incredible "Life In Jazz". The book badly needs a discography although to follow along w/ the story. Maybe next edition?! Otherwise a book hard to put down for jazzbos AND paparazzi/soap opera lovers! Dr.Mike Baughan Richmond,Va
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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Am two thirds into this heavy tome... Why am I reading it? Because Getz was some kind of sax playing genius, in my opinion...and we always wonder what our favorite artists were like away from the stage. Well, sadly (& maybe not so sadly, depends how you look at it), you get it here.

The trick is, once you have put the book away, to forget the negative and return to the music, appreciate the artist's art. Not always easy to do--but we do it. His art endures. You just wish he and his first wife (both junkies at one time) had been better parents to their kids, etc.

So then, was Getz a total lost cause? Of course not. He had his decent side--although when messed up on booze and/or drugs he was not pleasant to be around, to put it mildly.

Guy had demons, to be sure. Am talking about suicide attempts and depression. But then, how many of us haven't gone through a thing or two? It happens.

Don't know if this can be called the definitive bio on Stan the Man, but it is certainly worth reading.

Be warned, though, the last third is a heartbreaker. Just finished reading the entire thing. I'd like to give this tome 4 stars, instead of the three shown above, but (for some reason) amazon doesn't make it possible to change the rating.

I'm glad this biography was written.
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