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.
"Alto saxophonist Herb Geller (1928-2013) came in February 1962 to Europe, after his life was at a dead end in America touched by the tragic loss in 1958 of his wife Lorraine geller. The pianist was only 28 years old when she died of a heart attack. Geller's career had imagined until then as an important part in the atmosphere of the West Coast Jazz, but stylistically it fit much more in (hard) bop. That is also clearly reflected in this CD with mainly Parisian radio recordings of the altoist with the All Star group of pianist Jack Dieval for the RTF program Jazz aux Champs Elysees. Titles as Moanin', C.T.A., Crazeology and Blue 'n' Boogie say enough.
Sidemen as trumpeter Bernard Vitet and tenorist François Jeanneau rarely rise above the 'European level' of those days, but that is surprisingly true enough less for the Italian drummer Franco Manzecchi (1931-1979), who likes the case able to keep going. I know his name is not immediately available, but I see that he was recording along with Eric Dolphy, Clark Terry, Chet Baker, Mal Waldron and Nathan Davis, a drummer to keep an eye on."
—Bert Vuijsje (October, 2022)
Doctor Jazz Magazine)
"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)