Herb Geller (as), Sonny Grey, Bernard Vitet (tp), François Jeanneau (ts), Jack Dieval, René Urtreger, Henri Renaud, Kenny Drew, Renato Sellani (p), Dany Doriz (vib), Jacques Hess, Michel Gaudry, Pierre Michelot, Rajko Milosavljevic (b), Franco Manzecchi, Teddy Martin, Larry Ritchie, Jimmy Pratt (d)
Bar code: 8427328611176
Los Angeles native Herb Geller (1928-2017) was an accomplished and respected alto saxophonist who started his professional career in the late 1940s, influenced by Charlie Parker. He recorded with such leaders as Earle Spencer, Claude Thornhill, Stan Kenton, Billy May, Shorty Rogers, Bill Holman, Clifford Brown, Maynard Ferguson, Marty Paich and the whole West Coast clique.
In 1958 his life turned upside down. While on tour with Benny Goodman, he got news that his young wife, pianist Lorraine Geller had died. They had been married and performing together for seven years, and had high hopes for their future jazz careers. Her unexpected death hit Geller hard, and he dug in to forget. He went on two more tours with Benny Goodman, the last of them to South America under the aegis of the U.S. State Department, and upon his return he played many gigs on the West Coast. But sadness lingered.
Finally, Geller decided to find himself, and like Dexter Gordon, Kenny Clarke and a host of other jazz musicians who embraced the expatriate life —he moved to Europe in March 1962. “I wanted to see new things and get away fromit all,” he said. Things started to look up for the 34-years old altoist. He played clubs and concert halls all over Europe— in Paris, East Berlin, Geneva, Monte Carlo, Copenhagen, Stockholm, Rome. “I’m having a ball,” he said. “It’s much more fun than in the States. And I’ve played with some great musicians.”
During the spring and part of the summer of 1962, Herb was residing in Paris, where he performed in concert with groups led by the pianist Henri Renaud. Together, they also recorded music for commercials and short films. He also did radio work with All Star groups organized by fellow pianist Jack Dieval. The excellent recordings compiled here come from this period, and in them we can hear the altoist in his best form. The first examples of Herb Geller’s rebirth, playing with some of the best jazzmen on the French and European scene.
"It’s understandable that alto saxist Herb Geller (1928-2013) has been overlooked over the years, as he came onto the scene when there was a surfeit of alto sax players, most in the wake of either Charlie Parker, or consciously avoiding him (Paul Desmond, Sonny Stitt, Jackie McLean, Phil Woods, Ornette Coleman, Lee Konitz and Art Pepper).
Backed by local luminaires like Rene Urtreger/p, Jacques Hess/b, Franco Manzecchi/dr and Dany Doriz/vib, Geller flexes his muscles for a bold “CTA” and digs into the gospel groove of “Moanin'”. Pianist Jacques Dieval is in full stride for “Foolin' Myself” and delicate with the leader on “I Didn't Know About You”. In a quartet setting with Henri Renaud on piano, the team bops through “Tomique In C” and digs in during “Oscar Is Happy” A one-off in Italy with Kenny Drew/p, Pierre Michelot/b and Larry Ritchie/dr is caught in concert for a hard hitting swinger of “Blue ‘n’ Boogie” while another band in Yugoslavia serves up a breezy “A Cool Day”. You'll do yourself a favor by checking this guy out."
—George W. Harris (June 27, 2022)