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Herb Alpert Remembers Stan Getz

Trumpeter and producer Herb Alpert.
Trumpeter and producer Herb Alpert.
CD cover of 'Bossas and Ballads: The Lost Sessions.'
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CD cover of 'Bossas and Ballads: The Lost Sessions.'

In 1989, two years before his death from cancer, tenor saxophonist Stan Getz entered the studio with producer Herb Alpert and an all-star rhythm section, booked for multiple sessions over four days. For Getz it was a routine gig with one exception: he would be sober and drug-free.

The sessions, shelved soon after in favor of a more ambitious project, have only recently resurfaced in the A&M vaults. Alpert supervised the September 2003 release of Bossas and Ballads: The Lost Sessions, which features nine tracks from those recordings.

NPR's Liane Hansen asked Alpert about his friendship with the notoriously difficult Getz -- known as "The Sound" for his distinctive, smoky tone.

"He hadn't played under those conditions before," Alpert says of the 1989 sessions. "He always felt if he wasn't stoned... then he couldn't express himself in the same fashion. And he found out that he could and it really didn't change."

Alpert was initially reluctant to work with Getz due to the sax player's bad reputation. But Getz, in his early 60s and fighting illness, decades of heroin addiction and other demons, persisted. He cited his sobriety and his concerted efforts to make amends to the musicians and friends he had hurt over the years.

Alpert consented, and in March of 1989 Getz was joined by pianist Kenny Barron, Czech bassist George Mraz and drummer Victor Lewis at A&M Recording Studios in Hollywood. Alpert says that Getz was "a little skittish" but warmed up considerably after the first day.

Over the next two years, Getz purchased a house next door to Alpert's Malibu home.

When Alpert was reminded of the tapes that became Bossas and Ballads, his first reaction was sadness. His good friend was gone. But as he listened to the master recordings, "I found something beautiful in each take. What a blessing to know him and to be his friend."

Copyright 2022 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Liane Hansen
Liane Hansen has been the host of NPR's award-winning Weekend Edition Sunday for 20 years. She brings to her position an extensive background in broadcast journalism, including work as a radio producer, reporter, and on-air host at both the local and national level. The program has covered such breaking news stories as the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, the capture of Saddam Hussein, the deaths of Princess Diana and John F. Kennedy, Jr., and the Columbia shuttle tragedy. In 2004, Liane was granted an exclusive interview with former weapons inspector David Kay prior to his report on the search for weapons of mass destruction in Iraq. The show also won the James Beard award for best radio program on food for a report on SPAM.