STAN GETZ: A Life in Jazz by Donald L. Maggin

STAN GETZ: A Life in Jazz

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KIRKUS REVIEW

Maggin (Bankers, Builders, Knaves, and Thieves: The $300 Million Scam at ESM, 1989) essays a definitive biography of the tenor sax great. Stan Getz (1927-91) was the product of a difficult forceps delivery; in the process of extrication, the obstetrician almost tore off one of the baby's ears. One hesitates to make anything symbolic out of that event, but there's no question that Getz's life was as difficult and full of pain as his birth. Getz was the older of two boys born to a working-class Jewish family in living in Philadelphia and later New York City. Throughout his life he was driven to succeed, to achieve perfection, first by his overbearing mother (who favored him) and then by his own demons. It was a drive that carried in its wake bouts of depression and lengthy battles with drugs and alcohol. Maggin is admirably, almost compulsively candid about Getz's personal problems. Getz was a brilliant sight reader with a photographic memory for music, a multi-instrumentalist who finally settled on the tenor sax and quickly rose to the top of the jazz world and stayed there for virtually his entire professional career. Maggin tells the story in exhaustive detail. Along the way, he gives brief portraits of several other important musicians who helped Getz during his career, including Jack Teagarden, Benny Goodman, and Woody Herman. He also offers some excellent insights into jazz history, tailored to the novice rather than the hard-core aficionado. What the book lacks in the midst of its extremely detailed recounting of Getz's career and often violent and self-destructive private life is some idea of what made his playing so great. Maggin's analysis of Getz's recordings seldom goes beyond impressionistic adjectives. Definitive in its documentation of Getz's career but less successful as an analysis of Getz's art.

Pub Date: March 1st, 1996
Page count: 352pp
Publisher: Morrow