Herb Geller, NDR Jazz workshop ca. 1972.
|Birth name||Herbert Arnold Geller|
November 2, 1928 |
Los Angeles, California, US
|Occupations||Musician, composer, arranger|
|Associated acts||Lorraine Geller|
His musical abilities could have been inherited from his mother, Francis. She worked at the Hollywood neighbourhood cinemas playing piano, accompanying silent movies. At the age of 8 he was presented with an alto saxophone, purchased from a local music store owner and music teacher who was also a friend of the family and had a used instrument for sale. Two years later he started clarinet. Geller attended Dorsey High School in the southwestern part of Los Angeles and joined the school band which among others included the musicians Eric Dolphy, Vi Redd and Bobby White.
At the age of 14 he heard Benny Carter perform at the Orpheum Theatre in Los Angeles and was so impressed that he decided to pursue a career in music, specializing on the alto saxophone. Two years later, he had his first professional engagement in the band of jazz violinist Joe Venuti.
In 1949 Geller went to New York City for the first time, where he performed in the bands of Jack Fina, (with Paul Desmond also in the sax section), Claude Thornhill, Jerry Wald and Lucky Millinder. During this time he met the pianist Lorraine Walsh in Los Angeles, who later in New York became his wife and also an important musical partner. After three years in New York Geller joined the Billy May orchestra in 1952 and following an engagement in Los Angeles the Gellers returned there to live. The development of the Long Playing Record created more work opportunities for jazz musicians using many different ensembles and the so-called West Coast Jazz style became popular. Among the groups Geller worked and recorded with were Shorty Rogers, Maynard Ferguson, Bill Holman, Shelly Manne, Marty Paich, Barney Kessel, André Previn, Quincy Jones, Wardell Gray, Jack Sheldon and Chet Baker. Lorraine worked as the house pianist at the Lighthouse Jazz Club, and played with Miles Davis, Dizzy Gillespie, Charlie Parker, Stan Getz, Zoot Sims, Jack Teagarden, Bill Holman and was the accompanist for the singer Kay Starr. Geller recorded three LPs as a leader for Emarcy plus some with Dinah Washington, Max Roach, Clifford Brown, Clark Terry, Maynard Ferguson and Kenny Drew.
In 1955 he won the "New Star Award" from Down Beat Magazine and achieved worldwide recognition through his recordings with Clifford Brown. Later Herb worked in the bands of Louie Bellson and Benny Goodman.
Lorraine Geller died of an acute asthma attack in 1958. Deeply depressed, Geller decided during a tour through Brazil with the Benny Goodman Orchestra not to return to the United States but instead stayed in São Paulo for six weeks playing Bossa Nova music at a local club until he departed on a ship to Europe.
Arriving in Paris he played with Kenny Clarke, Kenny Drew, the French pianist Martial Solal, and Belgian guitarist Rene Thomas among others, and also toured with a French radio show, Musique Aux Champs-Elysées.
1962 he was offered a job with the big band of the Radio Free Berlin (RIAS) station in Berlin. He accepted this engagement and performed there along with other “Americans In Europe” such as Benny Bailey, Joe Harris, Nat Peck as well as outstanding European Musicians like Ack and Jerry van Rooyen, Ake Persson and Francy Boland. In Berlin he met his second wife Christine Rabsch. Geller stayed there for three years and then accepted a contract to play lead alto and also arrange for the big band of the (NDR) in Hamburg. Here he was engaged for 28 years and made Hamburg his home. During this time the NDR bigband developed from a post war dance orchestra into a top modern jazz band. The endless list of participating musicians ranged from Don Byas, Joe Pass, Slide Hampton, Bill Evans, Red Mitchell, Art Farmer, Georgie Fame and Chet Baker to avant garde musicians and rock/fusion and included nearly all the big names of European Jazz.
During his work at the NDR Herb Geller was also busy in other directions including his own productions and tours. During this time he also participated in recordings and worked with such famed artists as Ray Charles, The Supremes, Ella Fitzgerald, Shirley MacLaine, Jerry Lewis, Peter Herbolzheimer R,C&B, Craig Russell, Liberace, Udo Lindenberg, Marius Müller-Westernhagen, Paul Anka, George Gruntz, Bert Kaempfert, Billy Vaughn and many more.
During his tenure at NDR he also learned and performed on other woodwind instruments besides clarinet, flute, alto flute, bass flute, piccolo flute, oboe and English horn. On flute he played and recorded with Bill Evans and Brazilian guitarist Baden Powell. He also composed the music and lyrics to two musicals: PLAYING JAZZ (a musical autobiography) and JAZZY JOSIE B. (based on the life of Josephine Baker).
In 1996 the Senat of the Hamburg Government gave him the title of “Professor”. He taught at the Hochschule für Musik in Hamburg until his retirement. Currently Herb Geller continues teaching jazz improvisation and composition and occasionally doing seminars at various national and international institutes and wrote a method of improvisation for Schott And Sons-- “CROSSOVER”.
He is still active, performing regularly in Germany and abroad as a soloist at festivals and clubs in various formations including some big bands as well as with such diverse artists as Knut Kiesewetter, Lennie Niehaus, Jiggs Whigham, Rolf Kühn, Slide Hampton, Buddy DeFranco, Lew Soloff, Charlie Mariano and Jan Lundgren to name a few.
He is very proud of his friendship with the late Benny Carter, with whom he had recorded and performed with and participated at the Hollywood Bowl celebration for Benny's ninetieth birthday.
On 26 November 2005 Herb Geller was knighted for his achievements in Jazz with the title “Ritter der Ronneburg” by Fürst Johann-Georg zu Ysenburg und Büdingen. Modest as always, his comment about this event was “my friends still call me Herb”.
On 24 November 2008 Herb Geller was awarded with the "Louis-Armstrong-Gedächtnispreis 2008" by the association “Swinging Hamburg” for his achievements in Jazz which include being a supporter of the musical new blood as well as ambassador of swinging Jazz for Hamburg.
- 1954: The Herb Geller Sextette - EmArcy
- 1955: Outpost Incident - EmArcy
- 1955: The Gellers - EmArcy
- 1957: Fire In The West - Jubilee
- 1959: Gypsy - Capitol
- 1963: Alto Saxophone (Josie Records)
- 1975: Rhyme and Reason / Herb Geller Octet Featuring Mark Murphy & Earl Jordan - Atlantic
- 1975: American In Hamburg - Nova
- 1984: Hot House (Circle)
- 1984: Fungi Mama (Circle)
- 1986: A Jazz Songbook - Enja
- 1989: Stax Of Sax - Fresh Sound - (reissue from 1958)
- 1990: That Geller Feller - Fresh Sound - (reissue from 1957)
- 1993: Herb Geller Quartet - V.S.O.P.
- 1996: Birdland Stomp - Fresh Sound
- 1996: Herb Geller Plays (Import- Japan Remastered- Limited Edition) Verve
- 1996: Plays The Al Cohn Songbook - HEP
- 1997: Playing Jazz - Fresh Sound
- 1998: You're Looking At Me - Fresh Sound
- 1998: I'll Be Back - HEP
- 1999: Hollywood Portraits - HEP
- 2002: To Benny And Johnny - HEP
- 2005: The Herb Geller Sextette - Membran Music - (reissue from 1954)
- 2005: The Gellers - Membran Music - (reissue from 1955)
- 2006: Herb & Lorraine Geller: Two Of A Kind - Complete Recordings 1954 - 1955 – (reissue)
- 2006: Plays The Arthur Schwartz Songbook - HEP
- 2007: Herb Geller at the Movies – HEP
- With Chet Baker
- The Trumpet Artistry of Chet Baker (Pacific Jazz, 1953)
- Grey December (Pacific Jazz, 1953 )
- My Favourite Songs Vols. 1 and 2: The Last Great Concert - Enja - 1988
- My Funny Valentine - Philology
- Pacific Jazz Years Capitol
- The Best of Chet Baker Plays - Capitol - 1992
With Clifford Brown
- Best Coast Jazz (Emarcy, 1954)
- Clifford Brown All Stars (EmArcy, 1954 )
- Jam Session (EmArcy, 1954) - with Maynard Ferguson and Clark Terry
With Maynard Ferguson
- Jam Session featuring Maynard Ferguson (EmArcy, 1954)
- Dimensions (EmArcy, 1955)
- Maynard Ferguson Octet (EmArcy, 1955)
- With others
- Clifford Brown, The Ultimate Clifford Brown - Verve - 1998
- Bravissimo II - 50 Years NDR Bigband - ACT - 1998
- Clifford Brown, Best Coast Jazz - Verve (Japan) - 1996
- Mel Tormé, Mel Tormé Collection - Rhino -1996
- Ella Fitzgerald, Love Songs: Best of the Verve Song Books - Verve - 1996
- Anita O‘Day, Compact Jazz - Verve - 1993
- Various Artists, The Complete Cole Porter Songbooks - Verve - 1993
- Dinah Washington, First Issue: The Dinah Washington Story (The Original Recordings) Verve - 1993
- Blue Night Special Milan - 1993
- Clifford Brown, Jazz Round Midnight - Verve - 1993
- Rolf Kühn, Big Band Connection - Milan - 1993
- Dinah Washington, Jazz‚ 'Round Midnight - Verve - 1993
- Various Artists, Compact Jazz: Best of the Jazz Vocalists - PolyGram - 1992
- Various Artists, RCA Victor Jazz: the First Half- century - the Twenties through the Sixties - RCA - 1992
- Quincy Jones, This Is How I Feel About Jazz - GRP - 1992
- Dinah Washington, Complete Dinah Washington on Mercury, Vol. 3 (1952–1954) - Verve - 1992
- Anita O‘Day, Anita O‘Day Sings the Winners - Verve - 1991
- Clifford Brown, Compact Jazz: Clifford Brown - Verve - 1991
- Benny Goodman, Yale Recordings, Vols. 1- 6 - Musicmasters - 1991
- Marty Paich, The Picasso of Big Band Jazz - Candid - 1990
- Phil Wilson, The Wizard of Oz Suite - Capri -1989
- Benny Carter, Over the Rainbow - Musicmasters - 1988
- Dinah Washington, Dinah - Verve - 1962
- Art Pepper, Art Pepper + Eleven: Modern Jazz Classics - Original Jazz Classics - 1959
- Art Pepper, Art Pepper, Plus Eleven - Analogue Productions - 1959
- All That Jazz (The Hi-Los) - Collectors‘ Series - 1995
- Ella Fitzgerald, The First Lady of Song - Verve - 1958
- Bill Holman, In a Jazz Orbit - V.S.O.P. - 1958
- Jimmy Rowles, Weather In A Jazz Vane - V.S.O.P - 1958
- Benny Goodman, Yale Recordings, Vol. 8 - Musicmasters – 1957
- John Williams, Here's What I'm Here For - Discovery / Antones - 1957
- Don Fagerquist, Music to Fill a Void - V.S.O.P - 1957
- Anita O'Day, Pick Yourself up with Anita O'Day - Verve - 1956
- Benny Goodman, B.G. World Wide - TCB Music (SWI) - 1956
- Dinah Washington, Dinah Jams - Verve - 1955
- Bill Holman, The Bill Holman Octet - Capitol - 1954
- Lorraine Geller, Lorraine Geller Memorial - Fresh Sound - 1954
- Clifford Brown, Clifford Brown Allstars - Emarcy - 1953
- Various Artists, The Best of Chess Jazz - MCA - 1950
- Various Artists, Best of the Big Bands: Compact Jazz - Verve
- Jazz‚ 'Round Midnight (Saxophone) - Verve
- Benny Goodman, Swing Swing Swing, Vol. 1- 5 Musicmaster
- Ralph Pena, Master Of The Bass - V.S.O.P.
- Manny Albam Jazz Lab Vol. 12 - MCA Coral -1957
- Manny Albam, Jazz Greats of Our Time, Vol.2. - Coral
- John Graas Septet And Nonet Jazz Lab Vol. 19 - MCA Coral
- Klaus Weiss Orchestra, I Just Want to Celebrate - BASF - 1971
- Herbie Fields, Jazz Lab. Vol.9 - MCA Coral 1954
- Jack Millman, Jazz Lab. Vol. 11 - MCA Coral 1955
- Gene Krupa and His Orchestra, That Drummer's Band - Verve
- Benny Goodman Orchestra, Santiaga De Chile 1961 - TCB Records
- Clarke - Boland Big Band, Change Of Scenes - Ex Libris - 1971
- Americans in Europe Vol. 1 (Impulse!, 1963)
- The Alpin Power Plant Recorded in Switzerland - MPS - 1972
- Peter Herbolzheimer Rhythm Combination and Brass, Wide Open - MPS - 1973
- Peter Herbolzheimer Rhythm Combination and Brass, Peter Herbolzheimer Masterpieces - MPS
- Shelly Manne, Shelly Manne and His Men Play Peter Gunn - OJC - Fantasy
- Shorty Rodgers And His Giants, A Portrait Of Shorty - RCA
- Howard Rumsey, Howard Rumsey's Lighthouse Allstars - OJC - Fantasy
- Stan Kenton‘s Small Group, Plays Bob Graetinger: City Of Glass - Capitol
- Klaus Weiss Orchestra, Live At The Domicile - ATM Records
- Bill Smith Quintet, Americans In Europe - Impulse
- Bob Florence And His Orchestra, Name Band: 1959 - Fresh Sound
- Barney Kessel And His Orchestra, Barney Kessel Plays Carmen - OJC Fantasy
- Jan Lundgren Trio with Herb Geller, Stockholm Get Together - Fresh Sound 1994
- Nils Gessinger, Ducks 'N Cookies - GRP - 1995
- Wolfgang Schlüter with The NDR Big Band, Good Vibrations - Extra Records And Tapes
- Inga Rumpf With The NDR Big Band, It‘s A Man‘s World - Extra Records And Tapes
- Wynn, Ron (1994), Ron Wynn, ed., All Music Guide to Jazz, M. Erlewine, V. Bogdanov, San Francisco: Miller Freeman, p. 269, ISBN 0-87930-308-5
- McCord, Kimberly; Kernfeld, Barry (2002). "Geller, Herb(ert)". In Barry Kernfeld. The new Grove dictionary of jazz, vol. 2 (2nd ed.). New York: Grove's Dictionaries Inc. pp. 24–25. ISBN 1-56159-284-6.
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