Stan Getz was an American ,jazz tenor saxophonist, known as “The Sound” because of his warm, lyrical tone. Getz played bebop, cool jazz groups. and helped popularize bossa nova in the United States with the hit 1964 single “The Girl from Ipanema”.

Getz started on an alto his father bought him when Stan was 13 and learned to play clarinet and bassoon through his high school band during which time he played for paid private events.

In 1943, at the age of 16, he joined Jack Teagarden’s band. Because of his age, he became Teagarden’s ward.

Getz also played along with Nat King Cole and Lionel Hampton. A period based in Los Angeles with Stan Kenton was brief. Following a comment from Kenton that his main influence, Lester Young, was too simple, he quit.

After performing with Jimmy Dorsey, and Benny Goodman, Getz was a soloist with Woody Herman from 1947 to 1949 in “The Second Herd”, and he first gained wide attention as one of the band’s saxophonists, who were known collectively as “The Four Brothers”; the others being Serge Chaloff, Zoot Sims and Herbie Steward. With Herman, he had a hit with “Early Autumn” in 1948.


After Getz left “The Second Herd”, he launched his solo career. He booked Horace Silver’s trio for touring gigs, gaining Silver his earliest national exposure.

For an unknown period, Silver was not paid by Getz, who was using the money due the pianist to buy heroin. Silver left in June 1952.

Zoot Sims, who had known Getz since their time with Herman, once described him as “a nice bunch of guys”, an allusion to his unpredictable personality.  Bob Brookmeyer, another performing colleague, responded to speculation Getz had a heart operation with a query: “Did they put one in?”

In the same period, Getz performed with pianists Al Haig and Duke Jordan, drummers Roy Haynes and Max Roach, and bassist Tommy Potter, all of whom had worked with Charlie Parker. Guitarists Jimmy Raney and Johnny Smith were also associated with the saxophonist in this period. His profile was enhanced by his featured performance on Johnny Smith’s version of the song “Moonlight in Vermont”, recorded in 1952, which became a hit single and stayed on the charts for months. A DownBeat readers’ poll voted the single as the second best jazz record of 1952.

A 1953 line-up of the Dizzy Gillespie/Stan Getz Sextet featured Gillespie, Getz, Oscar Peterson, Herb Ellis, Ray Brown and Max Roach. He moved to Copenhagen, Denmark in 1958 to perform.


Returning to the U.S. from Europe in 1961, Getz recorded the album Focus with arrangements by Eddie Sauter, who created a strings backing for the saxophonist.

Getz became involved in introducing bossa nova music to the American audience. Teaming with guitarist Charlie Byrd, who had just returned from a U.S. State Department tour of Brazil, Getz recorded Jazz Samba in 1962.

Getz won the Grammy for Best Jazz Performance of 1963 for his cover of Antonio Carlos Jobim’s “Desafinado”, from Jazz Samba. It sold over one million copies, and was awarded a gold disc.

His second bossa nova album, also recorded in 1962, was Big Band Bossa Nova with composer and arranger Gary McFarland.

As a follow-up, Getz recorded the album, Jazz Samba Encore!, with one of the originators of bossa nova, Brazilian guitarist Luiz Bonfá. It also sold more than a million copies by 1964, giving Getz his second gold disc.

He then recorded the album Getz/Gilberto, in 1963, with Antônio Carlos Jobim, João Gilberto and his wife, Astrud Gilberto. Their recording of “The Girl from Ipanema” won a Grammy Award. Getz/Gilberto won two Grammys (Best Album and Best Single). As a single (1964), “The Girl from Ipanema” became a smash hit.

Getz and producer Creed Taylor claimed that the music’s success was a result of their discovery of the talent of Astrud Gilberto, who had never before been recorded as a vocalist, shifting the spotlight away from her and depriving her of credit, when it had been her vocal rendition that had made the song a smashing success with the general public. Getz even made sure she got none of the royalties. Gilberto and later her and João Gilberto’s son Marcelo disputed Getz and Taylor’s version of the story.

A live album, Getz/Gilberto Vol. 2, followed, as did Getz Au Go Go (1964), a live recording at the Cafe au Go Go. While still working with the Gilbertos, he recorded the jazz album Nobody Else But Me (1964), with a new quartet including vibraphonist Gary Burton, but Verve Records, wishing to continue building the Getz brand with bossa nova, refused to release it. It came out 30 years later, after Getz had died.


In 1972, Getz recorded the jazz fusion album Captain Marvel with Chick Corea, Stanley Clarke and Tony Williams, and in this period experimented with an Echoplex on his saxophone. He had a cameo in the film The Exterminator (1980).

In the mid-1980s, Getz worked regularly in the San Francisco Bay area and taught at Stanford University as an artist-in-residence at the Stanford Jazz Workshop until 1988. In 1986, he was inducted into the DownBeat Jazz Hall of Fame. During 1988, Getz worked with Huey Lewis and the News on their Small World album. He played the extended solo on part 2 of the title track, which became a minor hit single.

His tenor saxophone of choice was the Selmer Mark VI.