My Thwarted Interview with Stan Getz

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Photo by MGM Records (Billboard, page 1, 6 November 1965) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons (The original image is no longer available, please contact KCRW if you need access to the original image.)
I still remember the night of April 24, 1980, when I drove to Howard Rumsey’s popular Redondo Beach jazz spot, Concerts by the Sea, because it was the same date as the failed attempt to rescue the Iranian hostages. I was on my way to interview Stan Getz.

I had my questions prepped and my portable cassette recorder ready to go. My first question was whether he had any idea that recording his dreamy sax solo on 1949’s “Early Autumn” with the Woody Herman band was going to make him a matinee idol and propel him to musical stardom. It was a good question, I thought, a nice place to start.

But Getz’s eyes narrowed, his face hardened, and he began yelling expletives at me. “I wasn’t alive then,” he screamed. “Is that thing on (pointing to recorder)? Get the f%¢k out of here! Get the f%¢k out!!!” I grabbed my stuff and ran out of the club. I was so shocked and upset by his violent reaction that my knees were shaking.

Somebody once told me that ex-junkies sometimes don’t want to rehash the past. Maybe that was the case here.

Ten years later, I was a Vice-President at A&M Records, personally hired by Herb Alpert (the A in A&M; the M for Jerry Moss). By then, Stan had been taken under Herb’s wing, was living in a nice house near Point Dume in Malibu, was engaged to be married, and had recently completed an A&M album that Herb had produced, called Apasionado. Things were looking up for him.

One day, I was on the A&M lot when Herb introduced us. This time, Stan said, “Hi Tom. Really great to meet you.”

Apparently he had forgotten our first encounter. He passed away in Malibu in June of 1991.

Here is Stan in Woody’s band playing “Early Autumn” from a suite by Ralph Burns called Summer Sequence. Stan’s solo comes around two minutes in.

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