Bossa 60: Talented and temperamental, dedicated and demanding, Stan Getz was once described as “a great bunch of guys” due to his many moods and personalities.Turns out one of them loved Bossa Nova. It’s his birthday week, we look back.

Q speaks out

Did you happen to catch Quincy Jones’ comments on pop music the other day? In an interview with GQ, he took aim at Taylor Swift’s pop success by saying “We need songs, not hooks”.

And when challenged with the notion that Swift is considered by many as one of the top songwriters of the day, he observed. “A great song can make the worst singer in the world a star. A bad song can’t be saved by the three best singers in the world. I learned that 50 years ago.”

Or 55.

Jones had trouble with Elvis Presley too (“He couldn’t sing”…), but I doubt that he’d have much to complain about with Brazil’s greatest songwriter, Antonio Carlos Jobim. Or Joao Gilberto, the man who invented the Bossa Nova rhythm during a self-imposed exile to the Brazilian countryside. Even Astrud Gilberto has been graced with musical immortality… and a great song.

These things are beyond doubt, even by Quincy Jones.

But in Bossa Nova’s story, saxophonist Stan Getz was the wild card and an unlikely flagbearer for Bossa Nova in America. His talent was obvious, having become a professional musician with Woody Herman’s’ band at 16, only three years after picking up a saxophone for the first time. Drug arrests and drinking problems dotted his career, leading to a move to Europe to avoid prosecution.

Getz recorded five Bossa Nova albums in about two years, including the definitive version of Bossa Nova’s most famous song. Despite the magnificent truth of the music captured during those recordings, it was not a natural fit for the saxophonist. There are other stories that I won’t share here, because the sum of these creative parts made the difference for Getz and Bossa Nova.