No one kept score during the sessions that birthed Diz and Getz. History wants us to believe otherwise.
“Diz really wanted a piece of Getz bad that day. It was a kick to see them go after each other…Dizzy was out for blood.” – Oscar Peterson
And that’s alright. We often like to bill moments such as this, in terms of dissonance rather than harmony; the reality of it all lying somewhere in between. To a certain extent, I understand. Pragmatically, such a façade provides the controversial subtext that we too often desire. It’s almost as if the music does not suffice. This, of course is simply false.
What we have here instead is a meeting of the minds—the talented youth and the burgeoning legend. Do I believe that a degree of competition existed between the two? Of course. A mastery of form cannot exist without the inherent desire to be greater than. But, this is a pairing that builds upon accentuation more so than aggravation. Dizzy Gillespie provided a platform for showcasing potential, and potential was given the name, Stan Getz. And he is the perfect complement to Bebop’s original architect.
And thusly it begins with an invocation performed in unison. The pace is frantic, but never do they lose control of the Duke Ellington standard “It Don’t Mean a Thing (If It Ain’t Got That Swing).” Instead, they use this space as a medium for introduction. Back and forth, each instrumentalist matches the other—virtuosity in abundance. But, even in their individual displays of greatness, our duo always reconnects in the end, held together by the underappreciated bond that is the Oscar Peterson Trio (featuring Max Roach). If there was ever a doubt about this project’s satiability, the collective puts it to rest from the very beginning.
They then venture off into another staple of the Ellington songbook, “I Let a Song Go Out of My Heart.” The record always contained a typified “bounce,” but under the influence of Diz, it takes on the incalculable cool intrinsic in his style. And this alone, that trumpet and backing band, would have easily been a supremely slick record. And yet, the arrival of Getz, trading and supplementing Diz, makes this far more. They’re talking over each other and at the same time finishing one another’s thoughts. Without having previously met musically, the two speak as old friends.
The album takes a divergent turn in its lone moment of diffidence. “It’s the Talk of the Town” parlays the robust nature of this album into something more reticent. The change of pace is appreciated, despite its lack of indulgence of any technical flair. Instead, our players choose to do just that—play. And as it were, I found myself not to be overwhelmed as I had been with other selections. I was, instead, captured by its indifference to the album’s understood trajectory. If, at any point, Diz and Getz was considered to be offered as an album of ballads, “It’s the Talk of the Town” is a gentle treatise on the possibility.
The album concludes in two parts, “Siboney (Parts I & II),” respectively. A classic Cuban record, dating back to the late ’20s, this is not a jazz composition. For its closing number, the ensemble transcribes a powerful, yet stoic piece, into a lively adieu recapturing the braggadocio found at the album’s open. Every single artist signs a portion of the song, reminded us that this is not an album of one, or even two individuals, but an assemblage of brilliance across the board.
On paper, Diz and Getz is conceptually problematic. Having too much talent could have been the ironic failure of this project. Moreover, this wealth is divided amongst various personalities and ages, lending to the potential awkwardness of said relationships. Diz and Getz becomes an album of not only quality music, but a blueprint on how to use space. Each individual is given room to grow and in this the ability to build for and from the next. This is relationship of Dizzy Gillespie and Stan Getz.
Theirs is a wealth of talent placed into such a small place, and only furthering this is the innate relationship of Diz and Getz’ careers at the point of this recording. For this, I applaud the effort. It’s nearly unfathomable to understand the way space was used for this recording. I’m amazed to this day.
Words by Paul Pennington