Trumpeter and producer Herb Alpert.
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."