|Geller, Herbert (Herb) Alto, Sop. Saxes, Flutes, Clarinet, Piano, Arranger and Composer
*Nov. 2, 1928 / Los Angeles, Calif. † Dez.19.2013 / Hamburg
Through his work in big bands, combos and studio orchestras including numerous recordings, Herb became known as one of the leading exponents on alto sax of the so-called West Coast style of jazz in the late fifties along with Art Pepper, Frank Morgan, Bud Shank, Lennie Niehaus and Eric Dolphy.
Inspired solos, musical humor and wide range of musical knowledge has earned him the reputation throughtout Europe as a "musicans' musican".
First inspired by Benny Carter, Johnny Hodges and Willie Smith, then later by Charlie Parker and the pianist Joe Albany, Herb began his professional career at the age of 18 in the orchestras of Joe Venuti and Jimmy Zito. In 1949 he moved to New York City where he played with the orchestras of Claude Thornhill, Lucky Millinder and Jerry Wald. In 1952 he married the jaz pianist Lorraine Walsh and joined the Billy May orchestra returning to Los Angeles where be became active in the West Coast scene.
There he played and recorded with among others: Shorty Rodgers, Maynard Ferguson, Chet Baker, Bill Holman, Marty Paich, Clifford Brown, Max Roach, Red Mitchell, Barney Kessel, Andre Previn and Dinah Washington.
He performed with his own quartet including his wife Lorraine and Shelly Manne until her death in 1958. He then worked with Benny Goodman, Louie Bellson and Shelly Manne until 1962 when he departed for Europe.
After five months in Paris performing for the French Radio program "Musique Aux Champs Elysee", he joined the Radio Free Berlin orchestra in West Berlin where he married Christine Rabsch. In 1965 he joined the North German Radio in Hamburg where he still lives. He retired from that orchestra in 1994 and is currently active with his own trio and quartet performing, recording and teaching.
In Europe he has performed with the big bands of Kenny Clarke/Francy Boland, Friedrich Gulda's Euro Jazz Orchestra, the Klaus Weiss Band, George Gruntz's band, Peter Herbolzheimer's Rhythm Combination, three albums with the Swedish composer Nils Lindberg, as well as the BBC orchestra, the Holland Metropole Orchestra, many performances with the NDR Jazz Studio Orchestra, and with small groups such as the Bill Evans Trio, Baden Powell and Joe Pass.
He has composed and arranged music for films and TV.
Among some of his recordings on Mercury: Clifford Brown/Max Roach/Dinah Washington session albums, plus three of his own that have been reissued on CD. On Atlantic Records: Music from "Gypsy", (with Elvin, Hank and Thad Jones and Scott Lafaro); and "Rhyme And Reason Time". Also re-released are the CDs of "Stax Of Sax", (with Victor Feldman and Walter Norris); "Fire In The West" (with Ray Brown, Lou Levy and Kenny Dorham). Also available are:
Fresh Sound, 1991: "Birdland Stomp" (with Kenny Drew and Niels-Henning Orsted-Pedersen); V.S.O.P., 1993: "Herb Geller Quartet" ( with Louie Bellson, Tom Rainier and Jimmy Rowles); Fresh Sound, 1996: Stockholm Get Together" ( with Jan Lundgren); HEP ,1996: "Herb Geller Plays The Al Cohn Songbook"
A recording of his autobiographical musical "Playing Jazz" has been recently released on Fresh Sound and a recording of his Hamburg quartet (with the San Francisco native Edward Harris on guitar, the german bassplayer Thomas Biller and the N.Y.C. residing drummer Heinrich Koebberling) came out on HEP Records.
Herb Geller is still active in teaching and has a Professorship status. Among the schools where he has taught are the "Hochschule für Musik und Theater" (Conervatory for performing arts) in Hamburg, the "Hochschule für Künste" in Bremen and conservatories in Hannover and Rotterdam. He has done seminars for the Yamaha Music Corporation and for "Schott And Sons", for which he wrote a jazz instruction book entitled "Crossover".