Bandleader Woody Herman created a distinctive sound around The Four Brothers – the three tenor plus baritone sax front line of Stan Getz, Zoot Sims, Herbie Stewart (later Al Cohn) and Serge Chaloff – and the writing of clarinetist Jimmy Giuffre. In time, Getz, Sims, Chaloff, Cohn and Giuffre would all become distinctive soloists and all had a role in defining West Coast Jazz in the 1950s.
In the late 1940s, traditional “Dixieland” jazz gained a new audience as a reaction to the speed, intensity and, perhaps, exclusivity of bebop. “The most pressing challenge to bop, however, came not from these champions of the past. The ‘cool’ movement, as it soon came to be known, presented an especially promising alternative to the bop paradigm. Spearheaded by members of the younger generation, most of them in their early twenties at the close of the 1940s, cool jazz was—like bop—an overtly modernist music with radical implications. Its exponents shared many of the aesthetic values of the boppers—an allegiance to contemporary trends in music, a predilection for experimentation, a distaste for conformity, and a view of jazz as an underground movement—and many had served as sidemen in prominent bop groups.” – Ted Gioia
“By the early 1950s, cool was used to describe a particular school of jazz born out of bebop that had a light, laid-back, reticent quality. As cool jazz grew in popularity it was usually associated with white musicians who relocated from the East Coast to California, where the (largely segregated) film studios offered them financial security with musical day jobs. Their collective styles became known as West Coast Jazz.” – Gary Giddins & Scott DeVeaux
“The [cool jazz] saxophonists perfected timbres that avoided vibrato while aiming for a high transparent sound. Gerry Mulligan made the baritone saxophone sound almost like a tenor; [Jimmy] Guiffre made the tenor sound almost like an alto; and Paul Desmond made the alto sound almost like a flute.” – Gary Giddins & Scott DeVeaux
Many of the saxophone players that defined cool jazz shared a common heritage in Woody Herman’s Second Herd, known as “The Four Brothers Band”, after the Jimmy Guiffre composition featuring saxophone solos by Zoot Sims, Serge Chaloff, Herbie Steward, and Stan Getz. They also shared a debt to Lester Young.
“[By] 1949, a new generation of tenor saxophonists had demonstrated that Lester Young and not Coleman Hawkins was the path to modernist enlightenment. The most compelling of them, Dexter Gordon, showed how to combine Young’s airborne melodies, smooth timbre, and advanced harmonies with the dictates of Charlie Parker. [Stan]Getz … was caught in Gordon’s spell, as demonstrated on his 1946 recording debut, when he was nineteen. His ‘Opus De Bop’ was as beholden to Gordon as Gordon’s 1943 debut was to Young. – Gary Giddins
Opus De Bop. Stan Getz Quartet
(Stan Getz-ts, Hank Jones-p, Curly Russell-b, Max Roach-d). 7/31/1946
Stan Getz’s defining moment with Woody Herman “was his hauntingly delicate solo on Ralph Burns’s ‘Early Autumn’ … Getz had already left the band by the time this recording was released, but its popularity created a receptive audience for his ensuing work as a small-combo leader.” – Ted Gioia
Early Autumn. Woody Herman and his Orchestra
(Ernie Royal, Bernie Glow, Red Rodney, Stan Fishelson, Shorty Rogers-tp, Earl Swope, Bill Harris, Ollie Wilson, Bob Swift-tb, Sam Marowitz-as, Stan Getz, Al Cohn, Zoot Sims-ts, Serge Chaloff-bs, Lou Levy-p, Terry Gibbs-vib, Chubby Jackson-b, Don Lamond-d). 12/30/1948.
“By ‘Early Autumn,’ Getz had discarded the Gordon influence, finding his own way of interpreting Young in the age of bop, with a light, beaming timbre, almost completely lacking in vibrato. He sounded like a cool, burbling spring, disarmed—almost feminine—yet sure.” – Gary Giddins
If there had been a tenor sax on Miles Davis’s Birth of the Cool sessions, Stan Getz would have been an obvious choice.
“The thing that distinguished Getz even more than his undeniable lyricism, which was unfailing even at breakneck tempos, was his sound, a paradoxical blend of light and heavy. With his rigid embouchure and slightly aspirate sonority, he produced a breezy tone backed by heroic force… Getz’s emotional disposition, at once sensitive and aloof, seemed somehow emblematic of the white middle-class coming to grips with ’50s America, much as the music of Gordon, Wardell Gray, or Gene Ammons seemed to evince the confidence of postwar blacks. The touchiness of the subject was evident in the clumsy semantics it inspired, but everyone knew that code phrases like West Coast/East Coast or cool/soul meant white style and black style, no matter how many exceptions (and they were legion) fudged the issue.” – Gary Giddins
Mosquito Knees. Stan Getz Quintet
(Stan Getz-ts, Al Haig-p, Jimmy Raney-g, Teddy Kotick-b, Tiny Kahn-d). From Stan Getz at Storyville. 10/28/1951.
Moonlight In Vermont. Johnny Smith Quintet
(Stan Getz-ts, Sanford Gold-p, Johnny Smith-g, Eddie Safranski-b, Don Lamond-d). From Moonlight In Vermont. 3/11/1952.
Getz did studio work for a time (an option largely for white musicians in the 1950s) but, “[w]hen his recording of “Moonlight in Vermont,” made with guitarist Johnny Smith…, showed signs of broadening the popular following he had gained while with Herman, Getz opted to become a full-time combo leader.” – Ted Gioia
The Way You Look Tonight. Stan Getz Quintet
(Stan Getz-ts, Duke Jordan-p, Jimmy Raney-g, Bill Crow-b, Mousie Alexander-d). From Stan Getz Plays. 12/12/1952.
“When in 1952, he launched his two-decade association with Norman Granz’s labels, he put his stamp on some of the most familiar ballads of the era (Stan Getz Plays), including ‘Lover Come Back to Me,’ ‘Body and Soul,’ ‘These Foolish Things,’ and his incomparable ‘The Way You Look Tonight.’ – Gary Giddins
“Serge Chaloff showed the deepest allegiance to bop among the Herman saxophonists and earned praise for his skill in adapting many of Charlie Parker’s innovations to the baritone. Ill health aggravated by drug addiction would sideline Chaloff for much of the 1950s, and at his death [of spinal paralysis] in 1957 he was only thirty-three years old, but his work with Herman, as well his various recordings in smaller combos, reveal an expressive, technically accomplished instrumentalist.” – Ted Gioia
“Chaloff’s approach to the baritone, which never sounded unwieldy in his hands, was restrained rather than virtuosic and concentrated on the distinctive timbre of the instrument and its under-utilized dynamics rather than outpacing all opposition … Chaloff’s masterpiece [“Blue Serge” in 1956] is both vigorous and moving, not for the knowledge that he was so near to his own death but for the unsentimental rigour of the playing. ‘Thanks For The Memory’ is overpoweringly beautiful as Chaloff creates a series of melodic variations which match the improviser’s ideal of fashioning an entirely new song. ‘Stairway To The Stars’ is almost as fine…” – Brian Morton & Richard Cook
Thanks For The Memory. Serge Chaloff Quartet
(Serge Chaloff-bs, Sonny Clark-p, Leroy Vinnegar-b, Philly Joe Jones-d). From Blue Serge. 3/14/1956.
Stairway To The Stars. Serge Chaloff Quartet
(Serge Chaloff-bs, Sonny Clark-p, Leroy Vinnegar-b, Philly Joe Jones-d). From Blue Serge. 3/14/1956.
Al Cohn and Zoot Sims.
“Another Lester Young disciple, Al Cohn, joined the [Woody Herman] band shortly after the “Four Brothers” recording. Cohn had little opportunity to solo with the Herman orchestra during this period, but in time would establish himself as an inventive tenor saxophonist and a talented composer… Zoot Sims, who worked with Cohn both in the Herman band and in a later long-lived two-saxophone combo, also showed an allegiance to Young, enriched by Sims’s unflagging sense of swing and impeccable taste.” – Ted Gioia
“Virtually all one needs to know about Al and Zoot’s long-standing association can be found on the sober-sounding ‘Improvisation For Two Unaccompanied Saxophones’ on You ’n’ Me. All the virtues (elegant interplay, silk-smooth textures) and all the vices (inconsequentiality and Sims’s tendency to follow his favourite patterns) are firmly in place. A and Z were apt to cover the whole expressive gamut from A to B, as Dorothy Parker once said about Miss Hepburn. The rest of this set is their all-but-patented, cheerfully swinging one-two, bodacious unisons followed by a thumping good solo out of each horn, and maybe a little cameo from [pianist Mose] Allison too.” – Brian Morton & Richard Cook
Improvisation For Unaccompanied Saxophones. Al Cohn – Zoot Sims Duo
(Al Cohn-ts, Zoot Sims-ts). From You ‘N Me. 6/1 – 6/3/1960.
Love For Sale. Al Cohn – Zoot Sims Quintet
(Al Cohn-ts, Zoot Sims-ts, Mose Allison-p, Major Holley-b, Osie Johnson-d). From You ‘N Me. 6/1 – 6/3/1960.
“Jimmy Giuffre may have been a less distinguished soloist than these peers at the time of the Second Herd, but his later career demonstrated the most pronounced evolution of any member of the group… [H]e became a leading exponent of West Coast jazz, later released a series of eclectic, intensely creative recordings for the Atlantic and Verve labels, and, by the close of the 1950s, had embraced atonality—a progression that none of the other Brothers, a conservative fraternity when it came to musical values, could match.” – Ted Gioia
“One of the most distinguished composer-arrangers on the ’50s West Coast scene. Giuffre’s long career observed a long, sometimes lonely arc that kept him apart from any bop or cool orthodoxy and along paths almost always of his own choosing. As author of ‘Four Brothers’, he was a signature composer of the era. Cultivating a brown chalumeau register on his clarinet and defending the aesthetic benefits of simple quietness, Giuffre later created what he liked to call ‘folk-jazz’. The Jimmy Giuffre 3 contains essential early material: [including] a fine version of ‘The Train And The River’, on which Giuffre moves between baritone and tenor saxophones and clarinet… Giuffre’s out-of-tempo playing recalls the great jazz singers.” – Brian Morton & Richard Cook
The Train And The River. Jimmy Giuffre Trio
(Jimmy Giuffre-bs/ts/cl, Jim Hall-g, Ralph Pena-b). From Jimmy Giuffre 3. 12/24/1956.
By 1961, Giuffre’s spare “folk-jazz” had evolved into an even freer space as he teamed with pianist Paul Bley and bassist Steve Swallow. There’s was a partnership that resurfaced periodically until the 1990s. Listen to Giuffre playing counterpoint to Bley’s pointillistic solo while Swallow brings a funkiness rare in the avant-guard of the early 1960s. This is a quiet music, full of tension.
Emphasis. Jimmy Giuffre Trio
(Jimmy Giuffre-cl, Paul Bley-p, Steve Swallow-b). From Fusion. 3/3/1961.
Just as the Woody Herman Band birthed a number of significant jazz soloists who contributed to the definition of West Coast jazz, the Stan Kenton band spun off talent like saxophonists Art Pepper and Gerry Mulligan and a series of significant vocalists – Anita O’Day, June Christy and Chris Connor – in the next hour of Jazz at 100.
Woody Herman – Big Band: Vol. 086, Woody Herman (1947-54). World’s Greatest Jazz Collection
Stan Getz – Bebop Story: Vol. 077, White Bebop Boys Vol. 1 (1945-47). World’s Greatest Jazz Collection
Stan Getz at Storyville. Roost RLP 2209
Johnny Smith – Moonlight in Vermont. Roost RLP 2211
Stan Getz Plays. Clef MGC 137
Serge Chaloff – Blue Serge. Capitol T 742
Al Cohn & Zoot Sims – You ‘N Me. Mercury MG 20606
The Jimmy Giuffre 3. Atlantic LP 1254
Jimmy Giuffre Trio – Fusion. Verve MGV 8397
Giddins, Gary & DeVeaux, Scott. 2009. JAZZ. New York, NY. WW Norton & Company.
Chapter 12. Cool Jazz and Hard Bop
Giddins, Gary. 1998. Visions of Jazz: The First Century. New York. Oxford University Press.
Chapter 44. Stan Getz (Seasons)
Gioia, Ted. 2011. The History of Jazz. New York. Oxford University Press.
Chapter 6. Modern Jazz
Chapter 7. The Fragmentation of Jazz Styles
Morton, Brian & Cook, Richard. 2011. Penguin Jazz Guide, the History of the Music in the 1001 Best Albums. New York, NY. Penguin Books.
Stan Getz – The Complete Roost Recordings.
Johnny Smith – Moonlight in Vermont.
Serge Chaloff – Blue Serge.
Al Cohn & Zoot Sims – You ‘N Me.
The Jimmy Giuffre 3.
Ratliff, Ben. 2002. The New York Times Essential Library of Jazz. New York. Times Books.
Chapter 58. Jimmy Giuffre 3, 1961
Annotated playlists and streaming links for all the Jazz at 100 broadcasts: Jazz at 100