The summer "Jazz at the Bowl" season ended Wednesday with neither a bang nor a whimper, but somewhere in the middle, with an unostentatious but generally satisfying program dedicated to the memory of saxophonist Stan Getz, who was originally scheduled to be the main attraction. Getz died in June following a long bout with liver cancer.
Shirley Horn, whose piano and voice are better suited to the intimacy of a room like the Cinegrill, where she performed last May, nevertheless managed to capture the attention of the crowd, or at least most of the 13,819 who had settled into their seats. Backed by her regular bassist, Charles Ables, and her occasionally intrusive drummer, Steve Williams, she was at her most relaxed in "I Got Lost in His Arms," with its understated vocal and piano solo.
Dave Brubeck fronted what has been his regular quartet in recent years, with the clarinet of Bill Smith in a prominent role. Smith is a maverick whose tone is reedy and unconventional, occasionally making use of echoplex effects.
Starting improbably with "Shine on Harvest Moon," Brubeck proceeded to themes from a couple of his forthcoming albums, one of which was a cheerful number written for a Snoopy cartoon. For this piece, dedicated to his grandson, he brought on Bob Militello, who distinguished himself on flute and, in the next tune, on alto saxophone (in a song honoring Getz, "Baubles, Bangles and Beads").
Inevitably, Brubeck ended with his warhorse "Blue Rondo a la Turk," opening in its tricky 9/8 beat and segueing to a more blues-oriented passage with clarinet growls.
After intermission, four Getz alumni took to the stage. Gary Burton's vibraphone has seldom been more inspiring than it was in Dizzy Gillespie's "Con Alma," or in the following solo vehicle, "My Funny Valentine." Almost equally impressive were the pianist Kenny Barron (shades of Bill Evans and Oscar Peterson), who worked with Getz for many years off and on, and his superlative bassist George Mraz. Completing this peerless group was another distinctive Getz graduate, the drummer Roy Haynes.
The quartet played only three tunes on its own, after which Astrud Gilberto took over, adding a guitarist who played so painfully out of tune that the entire ambience was shattered. Gilberto sang three songs in her small voice, the second of which, delivered in Portuguese and English, was of course "The Girl From Ipanema," which she recorded with Getz almost three decades ago.
This anticlimax aside, the evening was marked by a pleasant lack of pretension and a fine sense of separate identities among the groups presented.