Friday, February 23, 2018

Blue Hour – Stanley Turrentine with The 3 Sounds

© -  Steven A. Cerra, copyright protected; all rights reserved.


The editorial staff at JazzProfiles has plans to include more about tenor saxophonist Stanley Turrentine in a future feature about “the Texas Tenor style.”

“The Texas Tenor style” is defined by Ted Gioia in The History of Jazz as:

“A blues-drenched tenor sax style … characterized by honking’, shoutin’, riffin’, riding high on a single note or barking out a guttural howl.” [p. 341]

In fairness to Stanley, his allegiance to this style of playing tenor saxophone is a much more subtle one and has more to do with tone and phrasing than with the specific characteristics of the style as contained in Ted’s description of it.

No bar walkin’ or jumpin’ in the air and coming down doing the splits for Stanley.

Orrin Keepnews in his insert notes to James Clay’s Double Dose of Soul [Riverside RLP-9349/OJCCD-1790-2] states it this way:

“For Clay becomes the most recent addition to a long tradition of outstanding tenormen from the big state (among them: Arnett Cobb, Illinois Jacquet, Budd Johnson, most of whom seem to share the same compelling Texas ‘moan’ in their tone).”

[For the record, although Stanley was born in Pittsburgh, PA, I still think of him as a “Texas” Tenorman and include him in this style of playing. His first influence on the horn was Illinois Jacquet].

Jerry Atkins in his magnificent treatment on the subject for The International Association of Jazz Record Collector’s IAJRC Journal [Vol. 33, No.2, Spring 2000] puts it more succinctly when he states:

“What is a Texas Tenor? In the world of Jazz, it’s a saxophonist born in or near the Lone Star State and playing with uniqueness in sound and ideas that many have tried to describe.”

Jerry includes in his essay on Texas Tenormen, Herschel Evans, Buddy Tate, Budd Johnson, Illinois Jacquet, Arnett Cobb, Don Wilkerson, Booker Ervin, John Hardee, James Clay, David ‘Fathead” Newman and Michael Ivery.

I first encountered Stanley Turrentine’s work on Blue Hour [Blue Note 24586/7243 5 24586 2 2] on which he is paired with The 3 Sounds [Gene Harris, piano, Andy Simpkins, bass and Bill Dowdy, drums].

We requested copyright permission from Ira Gitler, who prepared the original liner notes for the album when it was released in 1960 and from Michael Cuscuna who prepared its release on CD in 1999.

Following their annotations, you will find a video which contains a an audio track from this classic album.

If the one of the ideals of Jazz artists is the creation of an instantly identifiable sound, than one need to look no farther than Stanley Turrentine as the embodiment of this signature quality.

One note and you know it’s him.



© -  Ira Gitler, copyright protected; all rights reserved.

“DO you remember Longfellow's Children's Hour? Well, this is the blue hour and it's not for children. The blue hour is that early morning time when you "reach across the pillow where your baby used to lay" (part of an accurate blues lyric once sung by Rubberlegs Williams) and fail to find her (or him) there. It is when the lonely automobile sounds from the street below, the reflection of the neons and the elongated shadows on the wall, all serve as reminders of the solitary state.

If there is one thing that simultaneously reiterates the painful facts and serves as balm for your bruised soul, it is music. Specifically, the blues are about the most powerful combination of purgative and emollient that there is.

Blues are like the people who create them, products of their environment. The blues in Blue Hour are not the raw, urgent, rural blues. Nevertheless, they are genuinely bluesy even if not cast in the usual 12-bar mold. They are representative of what is commonly known as the "blues ballad," blues or blues-inflected songs with a bridge.

This genre grew popular in the '40s, especially around the large cities. You heard it both in the repertoires of the big bands and the small combos.

Although the blues ballad has mainly been the property of vocalists, many of the melodies are so attractive that our modern jazzmen began to play them during the '50s. The best of this type of song has always contained the warmth of the blues coupled with romantic elements from the "popular" tune. Buddy Johnson's "Since I Fell For You" (sister Ella Johnson made this one especially convincing) is an excellent example.

"Gee Baby, Ain't I Good to You" goes back to the 40s when some memorable versions of this Don Redman tune were done by Lips Page and Nat Cole. Old Count Basic fans will remember Jimmy Rushing's original vocal plea of "I Want A Little Girl."

While never thought of as a blues ballad, "Willow Weep For Me," qualifies by its strong blues feeling, even though it approaches the category from another direction than, say, the "Don't Cry Baby" that Jimmy Mitchelle did in the '40s with Erskine Hawkins.

The only 12-bar blues of the set is "Blue Riff" by Gene Harris. The tempo is a bit faster than any of the other slow-grooved selections but it is in the same relaxed mood.

No detailed explanation is needed to tell you about the treatment of these songs here. The simple act of listening will be self-explanatory.

The horn that fills Blue Hour with minutes of azure, cobalt, cerulean, navy, sky and Baby; Baby, is the tenor saxophone of Stanley Turrentine. Although only in his late 20s, Turrentine has a warmth of style associated with the players of an earlier period. His first inspirations were Coleman Hawkins and Don Byas and it is obvious that he learned some valuable lessons from them.


Stan's full-bodied tenor is ideally suited to the material here. Presently with organist Shirley Scott's group, he is perhaps best-known for his work with the Max Roach Quintet during 1959-60. It should be known, however, that he played with Ray Charles in 1952 and Earl Bostic in 1953. Jobs like these were actually long-range preparation for a date such as Blue Hour.

Since Turrentine's first Blue Note LP as a leader (Look Out! BN 4039) and his numerous appearances as a sideman on this label with Horace Parian, Arthur Taylor, etc., he has drawn nothing but high praise from a variety of critics. His direct, honestly emotional playing, embodying elements of the old and the new, pleases a wide scope of listening taste.

The fly, funky threesome known as The Three Sounds is very familiar to Blue Note listeners. In essence, this trio is an export of Benton Harbor, Michigan and a product of Indiana. Pianist Gene Harris and drummer Bill Dowdy were born in the Michigan city. Bassist Andy Simpkins was born in Richmond, Indiana, the state where the group was formed in South Bend in 1956. In addition to their own albums on Blue Note, the Sounds also did a set backing Lou Donaldson.

The wedding of Turrentine and The Three Sounds is the work of an astute matchmaker. Their insinuating, down stylings are a perfect complement to Stan's tenor. If he is the hands of the clock which tells us the blue hour, the Sounds are the inner works with Harris the sweep second hand.

This album has to make you feel good even when you are really brought down. You don't have to shake well before using. Use it freely; its healing powers won't diminish. And if your baby happens to come back and you're feeling all right again, it won't hurt to enjoy Blue Hour together, even at twelve noon.

— IRA GITLER original liner notes”

© -  Michael Cuscuna, copyright protected; all rights reserved.


“STANLEY TURRENTINE was a member of Max Roach's quintet and had just made an album of his own for Time Records when he made his first Blue Note appearance on a Dizzy Reece session in April 1960.

Although that session was not issued until 1999 (Dizzy Reece's Comin' On), he clearly made an incredible impression on Blue Note's Alfred Lion, Francis Wolff and Ike Quebec. Three weeks later, he was in the studio with Jimmy Smith making the amazing Midnight Special and Back At The Chicken Shack albums. Two months later, he made the first of many albums of his own for the label (Look Out! with the Horace Parian trio), followed by his first session with The Three Sounds (tracks 4-8 on this CD). That summer, he returned for Blue Note sessions with Horace Parian, Dizzy Reece, Duke Jordan and Art Taylor. The year 1960 closed with a second session with The Three Sounds, which produced the original Blue Hour (Blue Note 84057).

Clearly Turrentine's juicy, soulful tone, rhythmically hip phrasing and wonderful melodic ideas were what Blue Note was all about. And for the next nine years, he
recorded a succession of wonderful dates for the label as a leader and as a sideman. (He would also return when the label was reactivated in 1985.)

Gene Harris, Andrew Simpkins and Bill Dowdy first came together as The Four Sounds (with a succession of tenor saxophonists) in South Bend, Indiana in 1956. Paring down to a trio, they worked around Ohio playing as a trio and supporting traveling artists, toured with Sonny Stitt and then settled in Washington, D.C. where they began to make a name for themselves as a trio.

Horace Silver was among the first to sing their praises and bring them to Blue Note's attention. In September 1958, they came to New York to open for the volcanic Stuff Smith at the Offbeat Club. Impressed by their ability to find and lock in on a groove, Alfred Lion immediately signed them to Blue Note and brought them into the studio to make their first album Introducing The Three Sounds. Nat Adderley also used them that month as the rhythm section on his Branching Out album with Johnny Griffin.

When they returned to town in the next February to make their second album Bottoms Up, Alfred Lion also paired them up with Lou Donaldson for the superb LD + 3 album. When Stanley Turrentine came into the fold in 1960, he became an ideal candidate for the same concept. He had the same range and soul that made The Three Sounds one of the most popular trios of its day.


So on June 29, 1960 the day after the trio cut "Moods" and "Feelin' Good," they returned to the studio to record with Turrentine. According to his session notes, Alfred Lion was worried that Stanley Turrentine sounded better than the trio that day. The date ended after five tunes with a notation that they would use the then-untitled blues, "Where Or When" and "There Is No Greater Love" and finish the album later.

Two days after the trio recorded "Here We Go" and "It Just Got To Be," on December 16, 1960 they reconvened with Stanley. This time, once they hit a groove, the session sailed by effortlessly and yielded more than enough material for an album.

Oscar Pettiford's "Blues In The Closet,' "Just In Time" and a strong alternate take of"Gee Baby, Ain't I Good To You" were left in the can.

The album Blue Hour was released and became an instant classic in the canon of both Turrentine and The Three Sounds. The extra material from that session and the first session are what make up the previously unissued second CD on this set.

Although the prolific Three Sounds stayed with Blue Note until June 1962, they had no more encounters with special guests except for a single track with Ike Quebec on which Gene Harris switches to organ (recently issued for the first time on The Lost Sessions). In October of that year, they made two albums for Verve, one of which, oddly enough, was a collaboration with Anita O'Day. In December, the trio began a series of albums for Mercury/Limelight, some of which included orchestral accompaniment.

When they returned to Blue Note in 1966, the drum chair was occupied by Kalil Madi (followed by Donald Bailey, then Carl Burnett). Andy Simpkins left in 1968 and his chair was filled by Henry Franklin. While they continued to add orchestral backing for studio albums, that funky, hard-driving trio sound remained at the core of the group's identity and appeal. Some of their most rewarding sessions in those years were live recordings at the London House (Limelight), the Lighthouse and the It Club (Blue Note).

It would have been great to hear The Three Sounds with Stitt or Gene Ammons or any number of like-minded saxophonists. But at least we have their collaborations with Lou Donaldson and Stanley Turrentine to enjoy and now we have twice as much music from their meetings with Stanley.

— MICHAEL CUSCUNA 1999”






Thursday, February 22, 2018

Blue Moka Featuring Fabrizio Bosso a New Realese from Via Veneto Jazz/Jando Music [VVJ 122 CD]

© -Steven A. Cerra, copyright protected; all rights reserved.


Matteo Pagano ‘s Via Veneto Jazz in conjunction with Jando Music recently released a new CD - Blue Moka Featuring Fabrizio Bosso [VVJ 122 CD] - and the editorial staff at JazzProfiles wanted to participate in the celebration by bringing the music on this new recording to your attention.

Blue Moka is the debut album of a new quartet composed of Alberto Gurrisi (Hammond B-Organ), Emiliano Vernizzi (sax), Michele Bianchi (guitar), and Michele Morari (drums). The more widely-known and highly respected Fabrizio Bosso joins the group as its featured artist on trumpet.

The label sent along the following media release which we have taken the liberty of modifying in order to provide you with a description of what’s on offer in Blue Moka Featuring Fabrizio Bosso [VVJ 122 CD]

The album collects eight original songs that combine blues moods with funky rhythms and R&B, and what the group refers to as the New York “nu-jazz sound.”

To these pieces are added standards by Wayne Shorter ("Footprints") and Michel Petrucciani ("Brazilian Like") and a tribute to Lucio Dalla ("Futura"), a musician very dear to the band who died in 2012. Dalla was an Italian singer-songwriter, musician and actor who also played clarinet and keyboards. Dalla was the composer of "Caruso" (1986), a song dedicated to Italian opera tenor Enrico Caruso.

“Blue Moka takes up the colors of the American jazz tradition but experiments with the chromatic textures, creating a new shade of blue: a blue moka.”

Another way of describing “blue moka” is that it is a synergy formed by the interaction of a variety of musical styles that produces a combined effect greater than the sum of their separate effects.

In addition to being derived from musical styles, the cooperative interaction of the band is also formed from the numerous artists who influenced and informed the members of the quartet including: Jimmy Smith, Art Blakey, Wynton Marsalis, Brian Blade, Pat Metheny, Robert Glasper, Roy Hargrove, and Larry Goldings.

Simply put, Blue Moka is a band that could only happen today. It is the sound of Jazz - NOW.

The music on this CD reflects how young Jazz musicians hear the music from a contemporary perspective and although there are many influences from the Jazz tradition evident in their playing, their musicianship is very advanced and sophisticated - melodically, harmonically and rhythmically - which in turn is reflective of their training, background and experience in a more modern environment.

The music on Blue Moka is full of energy; it is intense when it needs to be but also sensitive when the music requires this texture.

The foundation for the group is the classic Hammond Organ, guitar, drums format made famous by Jimmy Smith, Brother Jack McDuff, Jimmy McGriff, Richard “Groove” Holmes, Lonnie Liston Smith, Shirley Scott augmented by the advanced harmonic sensibilities of Larry Young, Mel Rhyne, Joey DeFrancesco, Mike LeDonne, Eddie Louiss, John Medeski and Barbara Dennerlein.

Add to this solid rhythm section is  the classic trumpet and tenor saxophone “powerhouse” front line which then gives the music of Blue Moka a variety of sonorities.

The following video features Blue Moka’s version of Wayne Shorter’s Jazz standard Footprints which we hope will serve as an audio introduction to the exciting music of this new band.


Produced by Jando Music and Via  Veneto Jazz

You can purchase the new recording by going at forced exposure.

Wednesday, February 21, 2018

Remembering Don Redman: 1900-1964 - The First Master of Jazz Orchestration

© -Steven Cerra, copyright protected; all rights reserved.


“Redman was an outstanding jazz arranger and the first master of jazz orchestration; several of his innovations have since become standard features of jazz arranging.”
- Robert Kenselaar from Barry Kernfeld, editor, The New Grove Dictionary of Jazz.


Have you ever wondered about the dynamics of a big band?


How does it work?


A bunch of musicians with assorted brass, reed and percussion instruments assemble on a stage, organize themselves in various sections seated behind bandstands, a conductor or some band member snaps their fingers to set a tempo and a wall of sound erupts.


Where did the Jazz big band paradigm come from?


Early Jazz bands were made up of single instrumentation: a trumpet; a trombone; a clarinet or perhaps a saxophone.


Jazz bands that featured multiples of these instruments usually featured them playing a melody in combination - kind of like a marching band set to dance rhythms.


Written arrangements which served to introduce musical sounds that interlaced melody with harmony and apportioned these sounds into Jazz bands made up of brass sections, reed sections and rhythm sections began to make their presence felt in the 1920.


One of the first to do this was the Fletcher Henderson Orchestra in the 1920’s.  Henderson’s greatest claim to fame would come as the arranger for many of the early Swing era classic songs associated with the Benny Goodman Orchestra in the mid-1930’s.


But Henderson was not the arranger who first brought his own orchestra to prominence in the 1920s. That distinction goes to Don Redman.


As  explained by James T. Maher and Jeffrey Sultanof in Bill Kirchner, ed. The Oxford Companion to Jazz


“Henderson's band during the 1920s was a veritable all-star unit; at one time or another, trumpeters Armstrong and Rex Stewart, trombonist Jimmy Harrison, and reedmen Don Redman, Coleman Hawkins, Benny Carter, and Buster Bailey were members. It became a house band at Roseland, and Henderson was cited in Variety as the "Ivy League prom king."


Redman was Henderson's first important arranger, and such recordings as "Copenhagen," "Shanghai Shuffle," "TNT," and "Henderson Stomp" (all Columbia) show off his vision of jazz orchestra styling: an interplay of brass and reeds, often in a call-and-response manner.


He also further developed the idea of backgrounds behind soloists, either chordal or riff-based lines that were jazz-oriented in contrast to Ferde Grofé "harmony chorus" figures [soft harmonic reed voicings under a solo saxophone or trumpet melody line].”


The editorial staff at JazzProfiles wanted to remember Don Redman on these pages with the following overview of his career by Robert Kenselaar from Barry Kernfeld, editor, The New Grove Dictionary of Jazz.


“Donald Mathew Redman was born in Piedmont, West Virginia on 29 July 1900 and died in New York on 30 Nov 1964. Composer, arranger, bandleader, and alto saxophonist.


He was a child prodigy from a musical family, and learned to play most conventional instruments. By the end of his years in high school he had already begun writing arrangements. At the age of 20 he graduated from Storer College in Harper's Ferry, West Virginia, with a degree in music.


After working professionally for about a year in Piedmont he joined Billy Paige's Broadway Syncopators, a band based in Pittsburgh. Here he played clarinet and saxophones, and also wrote some arrangements. While on tour with Paige's band Redman met FLETCHER HENDERSON in New York, and joined him in several recording sessions. When Henderson formed an orchestra shortly afterwards Redman was one of the members; besides writing the band's arrangements he played clarinet, saxophones, and occasionally other instruments.


The addition of Louis Armstrong in 1924—5 as jazz specialist had a deep impact on all the players and also on Redman's arrangements; the band turned increasingly from dance music to jazz, and by the mid-1920s it was the most prominent black jazz orchestra in the country.


Redman left Henderson in 1927 to become music director of MCKINNEY'S COTTON PICKERS, and in a few months he transformed this group from a little-known novelty ensemble into one of the major jazz orchestras of the period. The Cotton Pickers focused less attention on its soloists than Henderson's band had done and concentrated more on Redman's arrangements, which were played with precision and control.


Redman's writing became more elaborate, especially in harmony and rhythm; his new sophistication is apparent in his outstanding arrangement of Rocky Road. Besides playing as a soloist (principally on alto saxophone) and in the reed section, Redman began to appear as a singer, performing in a high pitched, half-spoken style. He also composed his best-known popular songs with the Cotton Pickers: Cherry and Gee, ain't I good to you?.


In October 1931 Redman formed his own band with Benny Morton, Harlan Lattimore, and others. In that year he composed Chant of the Weed, perhaps his most masterly work. Although the success of his band waned in later years, it broadcast regularly on radio and made numerous recordings for Brunswick, Victor, and other labels before breaking up in 1940.


Redman spent most of the 1940s composing and writing arrangements for radio, television, and many big bands, including those of Count Basie and Jimmy Dorsey. He organized a big band to tour Europe shortly after World War II, and in 1951 became music director for Pearl Bailey, an association which lasted throughout the 1950s. At the end of the decade he once again issued a few jazz recordings. He seldom performed during his final years, but spent his time writing several extended works (which have never been performed in public).


Redman was an outstanding jazz arranger and the first master of jazz orchestration; several of his innovations have since become standard features of jazz arranging. His influence was at its greatest during his early years as chief arranger for Henderson. His early arrangements integrated solo improvisations with passages for ensemble in the style of improvised jazz, and he also incorporated certain aspects of collectively improvised jazz, such as breaks, chases, and call-and-response patterns, into his scores. His versions of Copenhagen, Sugar Foot Stomp, Go 'long mule, and Shanghai Shuffle for Henderson are important landmarks in the evolution of ensemble jazz.”


Additional source: Obituary - January 14, 1965 Down Beat


You can checkout Don Redman’s arrangement of Shanghai Shuffle for the Fletcher Henderson Orchestra on the following video. Redman can be heard on oboe and Louis Armstrong takes the muted trumpet solo.


Tuesday, February 20, 2018

Roger Kellaway - STRIDE!

© -  Steven A. Cerra, copyright protected; all rights reserved.


Bill Crow - bassist, author and all-round good guy, has a rule-to-live-by, one which he stresses over-and-over again, and it is that -  “Jazz is supposed to be fun.”


To my ears, no one better exemplifies this approach to Jazz than does pianist Roger Kellaway.


But please don’t misunderstand this to mean that Roger isn’t serious about his music or that he is in any way belittling Jazz.


Roger’s music is full of joy, happiness and unexpected adventure and, as such, is full of the fun of finding new wonders in Jazz. Listening to Roger play is like being let into the funhouse at the amusement park. For Roger, as for Bill Crow, Jazz is fun. That’s the point of the whole thing.


The first time I heard Roger Kellaway with Clark Terry and Bob Brookmeyer’s quintet [talk about two guys who knew how to have fun with Jazz], I burst out laughing. It was the laughter of delight based on the thrill and disbelief of what I’d just heard him play.


Whenever Roger soloed during this first hearing, it was the musical equivalent of “Mr. Toad’s Wild Ride” - Walt Disney’s famous cartoon adaptation of Kenneth Grahame’s Wind and The Willows.


Roger was all over the place: dense bop lines followed by stride piano licks; dissonance followed by melodically beautiful phrases; propulsive rumbling out of the lower register that led to cat-running-along-the-piano-keys tinkling in the high notes.


Not surprisingly, given his predisposition to stride, Roger made an LP for World Pacific Jazz … wait for it … Stride! [WP-1861].


John William Hardy wrote these informative liner notes for the recording.


“When pianist Roger Kellaway made his playing debut on records about three years ago [1963 A Jazz Portrait of Roger Kellway, Regina Records reissued as Fresh Sound CD 147] , it was, to say the least, an awe-inspiring event. For like no artist in the history of jazz, this man Kellaway had a deep and personally abiding ability to play, not only in a uniquely modern way, but in a driving two-handed stride piano style. Beyond that, he showed a familiarity with the compositional roots of traditional and modern jazz that allowed him on the same album to invoke the stride and in an obscure Sidney Bechet ditty called Broken Windmill, to deal out a gang of highly original originals in the beyond Bill Evans bag. It is completely safe to say that the world had never before encountered a pianist like Roger Kellaway. He is one of a handful of the most original modern improvisors, and he is one of the best stride pianists in the history of that interesting and difficult style. This album is built around Roger's love for the older facets of his musical personality, and for the kind of happy, carefree melody that seems to lay best with the striding medium-tempo feel. To top things off, the album offers us Kellaway's debut as a conductor and arranger. He has provided simple, uncluttered, but highly effective arrangements to augment the sound of the piano, bass and drums.


The music, as you will hear, has historical importance and contemporary value that should be assessed. So, like, what is stride piano and where does it fit in the history of jazz? Stride piano grew out of ragtime. Jelly Roll Morton was a ragtimer but only occasionally showed evidences of stride methods. Some of the later ragtime pianists, who had been largely followers of Morton in their earlier formative years, became the most prominent stride players.


Contrasting stride to ragtime, one may note the greater independence of the rhythmic left hand and the largely melodic right hand (ragtime found the two hands working in unison both rhythmic and melodic). Also, stride, as contrasted to ragtime, revealed greater rhythmic flexibility and a tendency for linear improvisation in the right hand while the left hand maintained the rhythmic drive playing a single note on the first and third beats and a chord on the second and fourth. While this is the basic form of the style, no stride pianist worth his salt ever held rigidly in that pattern but found infinite variation of the roles of his hands and the general feel of the music. Friends, I'd be more than happy to tell you that Roger Kellaway was a natural outgrowth of his vast experience with all the old striders... if it were true. "We could," says Kellaway, "get all involved in historical data that would nicely lead to such a conclusion, but it would be a pack of lies. I play stride piano because I want to play all of the piano and because this is a way of exploring the instrument that no other pianistic form will allow. Actually, in developing my abilities in stride, I began with listening to only a smattering of old Waller records to get the basic idea of it. Since then, I've relied totally upon my personal development of the style — plus my love for and interest in older forms of jazz in the most general way. Specifically, I like looking for older compositions of worth and beauty to which I can address myself in the older stride style, tunes like Lazysippi Steamer Going Home."


Kellaway continues: "Stride piano is happy piano and that feeling, plus the method itself, was the original basis for this album. We've tried to retain the feeling but we've diverged somewhat in the end result in the method. Stride still pervades most of my playing and when I do diverge from it as In Your Own Sweet Way, or a couple of other places. I still try to keep the same feeling and simple charm of the playing


I like contrasts in my playing —in fact, you can say that in any performance I give-any tune —I hope there'll be at least two quite diametrically opposed feelings involved. But in transition from one to the other, even within a few minutes as in these tunes, I've tried to remain as graceful and natural as possible. Eclecticism is fine, but when an eclectic such as I chooses to incorporate various styles from many eras into his work, he can truly speak of developing an original style from these parts only if he is successful in achieving the blend.”


As for the selections: Side One begins with the top 40's Sunny. That, in itself," says Roger, "was not the reason for playing it. It's a beautiful song. I've really looked forward to recording it for some time. Just like I fell for a couple of Beatle tunes that I've recorded. Hurry, It's Lovely Up Here! is from "On A Clear Day," the Broadway musical. Again a song I've wanted to do for some time. In fact, I recorded the original demo records of it for Lerner and Burton in New York. Lazysippi Steamer is an old Louis Armstrong tune that is one of the prettiest songs I've ever heard. I never play it without getting a great feeling inside, and I try to play it on every gig. It's become one of my most requested tunes. I never fail to announce its origin. It's beautiful, but I'm afraid a little puzzling to some people to know that you can find such great material in the jazz archives that is just aching to be played now. Porkette, My Love is light-hearted, but sad. Porkette was —darn it —a pet Guinea Pig that died. This is In Memoriam. Cherry is the Dizzy tune that Mulligan and Chet Baker did earlier on Pacific Jazz. This one illustrates what I meant about two moods, in the things I do.


Side Two begins with Cabaret from the musical of the same name. This is a... a fun tune. I superimposed the stride over the strings in the first chorus. The second chorus gets more sophisticated and then we move to a humorous ending. Ain't Misbehavin' is pure stride material of course, and one of Waller's favorites. This is one of the first tunes I ever played professionally— 13 years ago. Shows you how long I've been into this thing. In Your Own Sweet Way is probably Dave Brubeck's most famous composition and one that is performed by almost all jazz players. This is our most serious divergence from the general feel of the album. Dick Bock [owner of World Pacific Records] suggested it abruptly just to see what I would do with it in a spontaneous situation. To My Way Of Thinking incorporates more than one mood again, but in a more complex interrelationship. It incorporates the prepared piano and uses the time signatures of 3/4, 5/4 and 4/4. It is the most sophisticated and important piece in the album, from the standpoint of my own development."


Throughout all of this album, Roger Kellaway plays like a long lost legend of the stride piano, composes and arranges and even conducts like the fresh and markedly humorous young artist, with an understanding and respect for the past, that he is. He provides us with a musical sum total that won't let our minds wander or our feet keep still. Surely, that is what most of this music is supposed to be about.”


You can sample Roger’s stride stylings on the following video which features him playing Pops’ Lazysippi Steamer Going Home.



Monday, February 19, 2018

Herb Geller - A Career Retrospective by Noal Cohen

© -Steven A. Cerra, copyright protected; all rights reserved.
Noal Cohen maintains a Jazz history website replete with a number of discographies of important Jazz artists and he is also the co-author along with Michael Fitzgerald of Rat Race Blues: The Musical Life of Gigi Gryce that is now available in a second edition.
You can locate more information about both via the following links:
The following blog posting, which is as an adaptation from another format, is presented with the author's permission.

© -Noal Cohen, copyright protected; all rights reserved; used with the author's permission.

Introduction
Although saxophonist Herb Geller (1928-2013) is remembered mainly for his significant contributions to the 1950s West Coast jazz scene, he actually spent the bulk of his professional career living and performing in Europe. A native Californian, he gained recognition through recordings with Shorty Rogers, Chet Baker, Maynard Ferguson, Clifford Brown and a series of highly regarded sessions for EmArcy Records under his own leadership, often in the company of his wife, the pianist Lorraine Walsh Geller. (They married in 1952.)
But the tragic death of Lorraine in 1958 at the age of only 30, due to complications of asthma, sent him into an emotional tailspin from which it would take years to recover. Their one year-old daughter Lisa, born with serious health problems, was adopted by his sister, an additional traumatic event that, at least, allowed Geller to continue to work. At the suggestion of Stan Getz, and while living temporarily in Sao Paulo, Brazil following a tour with Benny Goodman, he made the decision in 1961 to give Europe a try and initially landed in Paris; however, it would be Germany, Berlin (SFB (Radio Free Berlin) Orchestra) and finally Hamburg, where Geller would settle, eventually carving out an enviable career with the North German Radio Network (NDR). Although Geller had not planned to permanently relocate, the financial security and benefits the NDR position offered were too generous to turn down. He remarried and had two children, Olivia and Sam, with his second wife, Christine, whom he had met shortly after arriving in Germany.
Wolfgang Schlüter, Birdland Club, Hamburg, Germany – unknown date
Geller performed with the cream of European musicians including Friedrich Gulda, George Gruntz, Peter Herbolzheimer, Ack and Jerry van Rooyen, Rolf Kühn and Nils Lindberg as well as visiting Americans such as Art Farmer, Slide Hampton, Chet Baker, Johnny Griffin, Stan Getz, Phil Wilson, Joe Pass and Bill Evans. There were also some notable fellow ex-patriots with whom he collaborated, namely Kenny Clarke, Kenny Drew, Jiggs Whigham, Charlie Mariano, Walter Norris and Al Porcino. And the NDR ensembles – the “Bigband,” “Studioband” and “Dance and Entertainment Orchestra” – were populated with some of Europe’s most talented jazz artists and writers. Among these, mention must be made of vibraphonist/percussionist Wolfgang Schlüter (b. 1933), highly regarded in Germany but little known in the US and a frequent session-mate of Geller’s over the years.
It was at the beginning of his NDR tenure in 1965 that Geller added additional woodwind instruments to his armamentarium including piccolo, flutes, oboe and English horn. While this was an effort to increase his versatility in the new work environment, his jazz flute turned out to be a major complement to his established saxophone skills. The soprano saxophone was added in 1968 and he would frequently alternate the higher pitched horn with the alto in the years following, applying his rich tone and sparkling conception to a very difficult instrument.
Unfortunately, many of Geller’s European recordings have never been issued. The INA (French National Audiovisual Institute) in France has made some of his Paris appearances in the early 1960s available as audio and video downloads from their website; however, few of the countless sessions he participated in during his 28-year stint at the NDR studios in Hamburg (1965-1993) as performer, composer, arranger, and conductor have seen the light of day except for unauthorized recordings made by collectors dubbing radio broadcasts.
Regrettably, but not surprisingly, Geller’s decision to become an ex-patriot and devote the bulk of his musical efforts to largely unissued radio and television studio sessions has caused him to be somewhat forgotten in his home country. It is the purpose here to present some of the highlights of his European years that may not be well known or sufficiently appreciated. But before getting into that, let me say a few words about my personal experience with him and how our relationship developed.
My first exposure to him occurred through the US recordings mentioned above, now 60 years old, although like all great music, they stand the test of time well and still sound fresh and creative. Among the many “West Coasters” in vogue at the time, his playing had a special attraction for me because of its fluidity, solo construction and emotional appeal. I also appreciated his stylistic ties to both Charlie Parker and Benny Carter, an approach that, in my opinion, set him apart from other saxophonists of the 1950s. There was a fire in his early playing that remained a recognizable attribute right up to his final performances in 2012.
In 2011, I decided to compile a detailed discography of Geller as part of my effort to shine light on certain artists I have always felt were worthy of greater recognition. As a point of reference, my subjects also include saxophonists Gigi Gryce, Lucky Thompson, Frank Strozier and Bob Mover. Unfortunately, I never got to interview Geller, but during the course of my work, we exchanged many emails that often contained amusing and enlightening comments and I have taken the liberty of quoting several of them herein (his words in italics). During the period of our electronic correspondence, Geller suffered several bouts of pneumonia, some of which required hospitalization.
In placing Geller’s European career in perspective, it should be noted that he often accepted work in musical genres well outside the jazz realm including pop, rock, klezmer, cabaret and even some electronic sessions. About some of these, he commented: I did several recording sessions with various rock groups. They usually consisted of me alone with earphones. They were strictly ‘take the money and run’ affairs. Usually I did not know if I was playing with musicians or machines.These recordings, details of which are nearly impossible to obtain, are not included in the discography nor are they discussed here.
Geller’s European professional history is immense and space limitations preclude a thorough examination of his oeuvre; however, I have selected a number of sessions that while somewhat under the radar, in many cases are commercially available (although I make no guarantee finding them will be easy). The complete discography covering this period can be found here.
The Jazz aux Champs-Élysées (JACE) All Stars – Paris, April-July 1962
Sayton 1005
Before moving to Germany, Geller made a number of radio appearances on the RTF (Radiodiffusion-Télévision Française) radio show Jazz aux Champs-Élysées hosted by pianist Jacques “Jack” Diéval (1920-2012). In all of these, the pianist’s trio mates, bassist Jacques Hess and drummer Franco Manzecchi, were present and a frequent guest, in addition to the saxophonist, was the trumpeter Sonny Grey (1925-1987). Originally from Jamaica, Grey spent most of his career in Paris as a capable hard bop player. He organized a big band for which Geller contributed an arrangement of his own composition “Scotch Squatch.” The few extant recordings of Grey’s ensemble have been reissued by Fresh Sound Records. Grey can also be heard on the recently issued (2016) Larry Young in Paris: The ORTF Recordings (Resonance Records) from 1964 and 1965.
Other participants on these broadcasts included trumpeter Bernard Vitet, tenor saxophonist Francois Jeanneau and vibraphonist Dany Doriz. The material performed was largely familiar standards and some bebop/hardbop chestnuts like Jimmy Heath’s “C.T.A.,” “Crazeology” by Charlie Parker and Benny Harris and Bobby Timmons’s “Moanin’.” The quintet with Grey, however, covered a relatively infrequently heard Thelonious Monk composition, “Brake’s Sake,” which debuted on a 1955 Signal Records session led by Gigi Gryce.
Geller offered these comments on his work with Diéval and more: We were doing a show called Musique des Champs Élysées and presenting it over several major cities in Europe. We also did a radio studio production once a week. We always played as a quintet. There was a fine trumpet player named Sonny Grey in the group. I also did some things in the Blue Note in Paris where I played with Kenny Drew, René Thomas (guitarist), Lou Bennett, Pierre Michelot and Kenny Clarke. I have a videocassette of a TV recording there. Also I did a recording for the West Berlin SFB (where I played for three years before Hamburg). I was the leader for a session, did the writing and the band consisted of Donald Byrd, Dexter Gordon, Francy Boland, Joe Harris, Ake Persson and Juergen Ehlers (bass) and it is possible it is in the archives of SFB. It was 1964 or 1965. I did an arrangement of Hoagy’s ‘Blue Orchids’ featuring Dexter.
None of Geller’s recordings with Diéval has been issued on CD but can be downloaded from the INA website as audio files after an account has been established.
NDR Jazz Workshops 1962-1982
The NDR broadcasts included a series of “Jazz Workshops.” This long-running series was established in 1958 by Hans Gertberg, a theatrically trained radio personality and director. Austrian saxophonist Hans Koller was the program’s first musical director. Over the years, an impressive list of European and American musicians participated in the broadcasts, many of which featured original compositions and arrangements and covered a broad range of genres, some of the material being quite adventurous. Unauthorized recordings of many of these programs have circulated among collectors for years. Herb Geller participated in nine of the workshops representing a diversity of musical settings, the first two taking place before he was formally employed by NDR:
Workshop No.
Date
Leader
26*
June 29, 1962
various
29
March 27, 1963
various
46
June 24, 1966
Bill Smith
61
March 28, 1969
Albert Mangelsdorff & Charles Tolliver
64**
November 28, 1969
Slide Hampton
71
April 30, 1971
Peter Herbolzheimer
76 (see below)
February 14, 1972
Herb Geller & Bill Evans
156
December 12, 1980
George Gruntz
170
April 2, 1982
George Gruntz
*Geller contributed an arrangement of one his compositions to this workshop: “Feeling Certain,” based on the chord changes of George Gershwin’s “That Certain Feeling.” On composing, he offered the following: I wrote several songs based on chord sequences: I did one on ‘High On a Windy Hill,’ on ‘Deep In a Dream’ and on ‘You Go to My Head,’ all of which have interesting progressions. When composing one has to start somewhere – a rhythm, a melodic motif, a title or a chord sequence.
**Geller contributed a suite to this workshop entitled “Let Me Play the Lion Too” which is made up of several familiar themes. About this he commented: I had several productions in my first contract with the NDR. For the small group sets I was asked by the producer (Michael Naura) to do some American folk songs. I found a book with many choices and found 8 songs that were doable with some new harmonies. These were recorded. Later I was asked by the producer (Hans Gertberg) of the Jazz Workshop series to write a suite where I would play 8 different instruments (four flutes, oboe, English Horn and 2 saxes); somehow I ignored the clarinet. That suite [“Let Me Play the Lion Too”] was the result using the previous songs. It was almost a circus act. I don’t know where the animal title came from.
Early Bird Jam Session – June 7, 1965
Jacques Diéval Trio at the Early Bird Jam Session
In an unusual and for the time, technologically challenging session, Jacques Diéval assembled an international aggregation of horn players joining his Paris-based trio in a performance of Lester Young’s blues “Jumpin’ with Symphony Sid.” The novel feature here involved the guests all performing in different locations (listed in solo order): Geller (alto sax) in Berlin, Jacques Pelzer (flute) in Brussels, Dino Piana (valve trombone) in Rome, Johnny Dankworth (alto sax) in London, Luc Hoffmann (alto sax) in Geneva and Billy Byers (trombone) in New York City. The television broadcast was part of the Jack Diéval Presents show. Video of this performance is available from the INA website.
In response to a question about this unconventional gig Geller commented: I do remember that. I think we did that gimmick a couple times while I was in Berlin. That was the same rhythm section [Diéval, Hess, Manzecchi] we used for all my associations with Diéval.
Art Farmer – Hamburg Souvenirs: People – December 1, 1965
This radio broadcast comprises an appealing collection of standards and, in a reflection of pop trends of the time, versions of “People” by Jule Styne and Bob Merrill from the show Funny Girl and Lennon and McCartney’s “Hard Day’s Night.” The program was performed by a sextet led by Art Farmer (1928-1999) on flugelhorn, with Geller on alto sax and flute, Wolfgang Schlüter, vibraphone, Michael Naura, piano, Eberhard Leibling, bass and Jimmy Pratt, drums. All of the arrangements are by Geller who commented: The Art Farmer production was the first thing I wrote for the NDR after taking the job. This session is not commercially available but unauthorized recordings have circulated.
Baden Powell – Grandezza on Guitar – December 10-11, 1971
CBS 80 141
Geller’s only encounter with the Brazilian guitarist Baden Powell de Aquino (1937-2000) finds him only on flutes, but the music is samba at its best. Except for Ervin Drake’s “It Was a Very Good Year” (an alto flute/guitar duet), all the material was composed by Powell. The accompanists are Eberhard Weber on bass and Joaquim Paes Henriques on drums. About these sessions Geller commented: I remember I played flute and alto flute and Eberhard Weber was on bass and neither Baden nor the drummer could speak English or German, so it was a little complicated. The LP that resulted, Grandezza on Guitar, was issued on the European CBS (80 141 (1974); 22026 (1976)) and Japanese Epic (ECPM 107 (1974)) labels, but there seem to be no US releases and no CD reissues.
The Bill Evans Encounter – February 12 & 14, 1972
Bill Evans and Herb Geller, NDR Studio, Hamburg, Germany, Feb. 12, 1972
The only documented collaboration of Geller and piano master Bill Evans (1929-1980) took place as part of the NDR Jazz Workshop series mentioned above. Of great interest here is the filming of the rehearsal for the actual live performance two days prior to the event at the NDR studios by director Werner Schlichting and cinematographer Klaus Brix. According to Geller: They [Bill Evans Trio] arrived in Hamburg from New York, checked in at their hotel and [were] brought immediately to the Funkhaus. Geller (on flutes) is observed rehearsing his compositions “Sao Paulo,” “Northern Trail,” “Quarter Tone Experiments” and “Waltz of Dissension” with Evans, bassist Eddie Gomez and drummer Marty Morell. There is also an incomplete version of “What Is this Thing Called Love” with Geller on alto sax. The video has been issued on Jazz Shots (Sp.) 2869088 (2009 DVD) and the audio on Turning Point TUP 133282 (2012 CD).
The concert (NDR Jazz Workshop No. 76) took place on February 14, 1972 with the Evans trio playing several pieces before being joined by Geller on flute and alto flute. All the Geller compositions on the rehearsal video are performed along with another of his works entitled “Stockenhagen.” The concert has been issued on the Turning Point CD but no video of it seems to exist. In view of the quality of the music produced at this event, it seems a shame that Geller and Evans never again recorded together.
Dusko Gojkovic and the NDR Studio Band with guests Dexter Gordon, Slide Hampton and Horace Parlan – May 18, 1974
Here is the NDR Studio Band in live concert at the Fabrik club in Hamburg. Serbian-born trumpeter Dusko Gojkovic (b. 1931) is the leader with tenor saxophonist Dexter Gordon (1923-1990), trombonist Slide Hampton (b. 1932) and pianist Horace Parlan (b. 1931) on board as featured artists. Gojkovic, Hampton and George Gruntz contribute arrangements as does Geller who is responsible for a chart on the Jule Styne-Sammy Kahn standard, “I Guess I’ll Hang My Tears out to Dry,” a feature for Gordon. Geller himself solos on alto sax on Gruntz’s “Drinking Song,” soprano sax on Duke Ellington’s “Saturday Night Function” and Luis Russell’s “Jersey Lightning” and flute on Gojkovic’s “Latin Haze.” This concert has been issued on Gambit (Sp.) 69304_2 (2008 CD) as Dexter Gordon: The Complete Hamburg Concert 1974.
Herb Geller – An American in Hamburg: The View from Here – January 13, 1975
Nova 6.28332
Geller’s only excursion into fusion and electronic music was undoubtedly inspired by trends of the 1970s and resulted in his first album as a leader since the Gypsy recording for the Atco label in June of 1959. With overdubbing, synthesizers and funk rhythms, it was certainly a major departure from the bebop/hard bop settings he had favored up to this point and, as it turned out, a stylistic approach he never returned to as a leader. All of the writing is his and four of the titles feature vocals with politically charged lyrics, three handled by the wonderful Mark Murphy and one by a singer named Earl Jordan, at the time a member of the Les Humphries Singers, a Hamburg-based vocal ensemble. This seems to be Jordan’s only appearance on a jazz recording. He made one LP under his own name, Jordan, on the British Sovereign label.
The international band that Geller assembled for this project was an impressive one with Palle Mikkelborg on trumpet, Wolfgang Schlüter on vibraphone, Philip Catherine on guitar, Rob Franken and Gottfried Boettger on keyboards, Lucas Lindholm on bass and Alex Riel on drums. Geller himself is heard on soprano, alto and tenor saxophones as well as flute and alto flute. The four vocal tracks “Rhyme and Reason Time” (the Jordan feature), “Sudden Senility,” “The Power of a Smile” and “Space al la Mode” were also recorded as instrumental versions. One other instrumental, entitled “Title Wave,” would surface on other recordings as “Cosmopolitan Meetings.” As one would expect, the performances are all flawless but at the same time frustrating because the fusion genre feels inconsistent with the leader’s more traditionally oriented attributes.
The results of this session were issued in Germany as a double LP on Nova (Ger.) 6.28332DX (1975) which included both the vocal and instrumental tracks. In the US, five of the titles were issued on Atlantic SD 1681 (1975) and later, Discovery DS 874 (1983), as Rhyme and Reason, single LPs lacking the instrumental versions of the vocal tracks. The full session is also available on Tramp (Ger.) TRCD 9024 (2013).
Herb Geller Quartet live in Siegen – November 24, 1984
By the mid-1980s, Geller began to appear more often on his own, away from the NDR studios. He appeared at the Jazzclub Oase in Siegen, a city 440 km. south of Hamburg, at the end of 1984, with a capable trio led by pianist Hartmut Sperl including Bernd Wolf on bass and Achim Bräuer on drum. Geller leads the group through a couple of sets of standard material this night that were recorded and issued on two Circle (Ger.) LPs, Hot House(241184/30) and Fungi Mama(241184/34). The twelve tracks, with the leader stretching out on alto sax in a relaxed atmosphere, are definitely worth a listen if the LPs can be found. There appear to be no CD reissues.
Herb Geller and Nils Lindberg – How ‘Bout It – November 11, 1985
Bluebell 197
Recorded in Stockholm, this septet session, led by the versatile Swedish pianist/composer/arranger Nils Lindberg, features Geller prominently on both alto and soprano sax. The rest of the band is made up of Markku Johansson on trumpet, Torgny Nillson on trombone, Joakim Milder on tenor sax, Jesper Lundgaard on bass and Rune Carlson on drums. Geller contributes two of his own compositions, “How About It” (aka “The Order”) based on the chord sequence of the standard “How About You” and “Stand Up Comic” (aka “Otto, der Film” – based on the chord structure of Jerome Kern’s “Nobody Else But Me”) written with both Lenny Bruce and the German comedian Otto Waalkes in mind. The latter performance along with that of Benny Carter’s “When Lights are Low” and a haunting ballad by Lindberg entitled “Shall I Compare Thee to a Summer’s Day” find Geller alone with the excellent rhythm section. This material was issued on Bluebell (Swd.) BELL197 (1986 LP) but apparently never reissued on CD.
Birdland Stomp No. 1 – Live in Hamburg – January 24 & 25, 1986
Enja 5019
There are two Geller albums called Birdland Stomp, the title taken from a Geller composition based on the chords of “Stompin’ at the Savoy” and named for a Hamburg jazz club that opened in 1985. This is the first and more obscure, a live outing at the Birdland club with the saxophonist backed only by Red Mitchell on bass and a guitarist named Michael Melzer (or Meltzer) about whom little seems to be known. The liner notes to the LP describe him as “a young, self-taught guitarist from Hamburg ‘who also works at the post office.’” Although a fine player, able to negotiate difficult material like Benny Carter’s “Summer Serenade,” the briskly paced title song, and the leader’s “The Princess,” this is apparently Melzer’s only recording. It should be noted that Geller was more than happy to mentor and provide instruction to young musicians in the Hamburg area having an inclination towards straight-ahead jazz and taught at the Hochschule für Musik there. His students included saxophonists Ernst “Fiete” Felsch (alto), Lütz Buchner (tenor) and Edgar Herzog (baritone).
Throughout the performances, Mitchell is featured prominently, the trio interacts cohesively and the absence of a drummer is no hindrance to solid swing throughout. On one track, “Come Rain or Come Shine,” we hear a vocal by Harold Smith, a Hamburg-based singer, drummer and percussionist originally from the West Indies.
Five titles from these two nights were originally issued on Enja (Ger.) 5019 (1987 LP) and a Japanese CD reissue in 2008 (VQCT 10011) added two more, “Hot House” and “Straight, No Chaser.”
Chet Baker – The Last Great Concert – April 28, 1988
Enja R2 79650
Chet Baker died on May 13, 1988, at the age of 58, after falling from the window of a hotel in Amsterdam. About two weeks before that tragic event, he appeared in Hannover, Germany with the NDR Big Band under the direction of Austrian-born trombonist, composer and teacher Dieter Glawischnig (b. 1938) in what became known as “The Last Great Concert.” This concert was recorded and issued on the Enja label, the tracks distributed over two LPs and CDs: The Last Great Concert – My Favourite Songs (R1/2 79600) and The Last Great Concert, Vol. II – Straight from the Heart (R1/2 79624). The entire concert is found on Enja (Ger.) R2 79650 (1994 CD).
Geller was in the band and solos on Monk’s “Well, You Needn’t” arranged by Horst Mühlbradt and Miles Davis’s “Sippin’ at Bells” arranged by Jörg Achim Keller. He also appears with Baker in a sextet including guitarist John Schröder, pianist Walter Norris, bassist Lucas Lindholm and drummer Aage Tanggaard performing George Shearing’s “Conception” (Geller solo), Dave Brubeck’s “In Your Own Sweet Way” and the Lane-Harburg standard “That Old Devil Moon,” the last title unissued.
Herb Geller – A Jazz Song Book – June 23-24, 1988
Enja 6006-2
Recorded at the NDR studios in Hamburg, this excellent quintet session, with tributes to some of his musical heroes, finds Geller on both alto and soprano again in the company of guitarist Schröder and pianist Norris with visiting Americans Mike Richmond on bass and Adam Nussbaum on drums. All the material was composed by the leader: “Cosmopolitan Meetings” (aka “Title Wave” from the January 13, 1975 fusion session), “For Chet” (aka “Chet Baker/Chet and the Devil”) “For Joe” (aka “Joe Albany”), “The Law,” “The Groove and I” (aka “Mr. Music” for Al Cohn), “How About It” (duet with Norris), “Little Big Sam” and “L.A. Daze.” This material was issued on Enja 6006-2 and a subsequent CD (R2 79655) that included an additional track, Geller’s beautiful bossa nova “Landscape,” dedicated to saxophonist Harold Land. This album was a precursor to his 1995 Musical Autobiography CD on the Fresh Sound label (see below).
Benny Carter All Star Sax Ensemble – Over the Rainbow – October 18 & 19, 1988
MusicMasters CIJD 60196Y
Geller made several visits to the US after settling in Germany. The first recording session back home took place in New York City in 1988 and was led by his idol, Benny Carter. It certainly was an honor and pleasure to have been included in this project along with the stellar line up of Jimmy Heath and Frank Wess on tenor saxophones and Joe Temperley on baritone. The fine rhythm section present was made up of Richard Wyands on piano, Milt Hinton on bass and Ronnie Bedford on drums. Four of the compositions and all of the arrangements were Carter’s who shared section lead duties on alto with Geller. This session was issued on MusicMasters CIJD 60196Y (1989 CD).
Ed Berger, the session producer and Carter’s manager and biographer, comments about Geller in the liner notes: “A powerful soloist and indefatigable lead player, Geller returned to the US especially for this date, calling the trip ‘the greatest vacation I ever had!’” Berger offered some additional comments in an email: “Many of the five-part sax soli were written by Benny right before the session (especially ‘Ain’t Misbehavin’’) so they hadn’t rehearsed them, which led to a lot of discussion and trial and error before each take. Herb, in trying to be helpful, had a lot to say, but it was all well-meaning. Benny didn’t seem to mind at all… Benny liked Herb, who visited him at his home in LA a couple of times while I was there. [One] time (in 2002, the year before Benny died) I was visiting, and Benny suddenly said, ‘Why don’t we go hear Herb Geller this evening?’ Herb was leading a group at a club at LAX. So we drove down there, and as we walked in Herb happened to be playing Benny’s ‘Key Largo’ although he had no idea Benny was coming. Herb was very moved, stopped playing, and made a speech about Benny. He couldn’t believe it!”
Herb Geller and Benny Carter at the Over the Rainbow recording session – Photo by Ed Berger
Birdland Stomp No. 2 – Barcelona Studio – May 24-25, 1990
Fresh Sound FSR-CD 174
The second Geller album title Birdland Stomp resulted from a session recorded in Barcelona where Geller had assembled an outstanding international quartet including pianist Kenny Drew from the US (but living in Copenhagen), Niels-Henning Ørsted Pedersen from Denmark and British drummer Mark Taylor. The group reprises the title tune and performs Charlie Parker’s blues, “Cheryl,” two standards and a five-part “Ellington & Strayhorn Medley.” These titles were issued on Fresh Sound (Sp.) FSR-CD 174 (1991).
Drummer Taylor, now based in New York City, was 28 at the time and occasionally played gigs with Geller. In a 2016 telephone interview, he recalled that on the day following this session the quartet was augmented by trumpeters Roy Hargrove and Gerard Presencer and the resulting sextet recorded another entire album that, for reasons unknown, has never been released. Taylor also remembered Geller’s intense but futile attempts to induce Drew to stop smoking.
Herb Geller with Nick Weldon (piano) and Peter Ind (bass) at the Bass Clef, London, April 1990 – Photo by Brian O’Connor
Herb Geller with the SDR Big Band led by Manny Albam – May 24, 1992
Intercord IRS 973.401
Manny Albam (1922-2001) was an arranger for Maynard Ferguson’s 1956 big band of which Geller was a member. They also collaborated on Albam’s 1957 Jazz Greats of Our Time, Vol. 2 project for Coral Records. In 1992, they reunited for a concert in Stuttgart when Albam was a guest conductor of the SDR Big Band (South German Radio now called SWR – Southwest Radio) that was recorded and issued on Intercord (Ger.) IRS 973.401 (1993 CD). Over the years, many world-class artists have appeared with this ensemble including Frank Foster, Clark Terry and Phil Woods. All the arrangements are Albam’s and Geller solos on soprano sax on “My Inspiration” and alto sax on “I Love You” (the Cole Porter song), “Lush Life,” “Caravan,” “Embraceable You” and two Albam originals.
NDR Big Band – Bravissimo and Bravissimo II – Joe Pass and Jiggs Whigham – November 27, 1992
Act 9232
Although I indicated that few of the NDR archival recordings had been issued, two authorized CDs did emerge on the German Act label containing selected performances of the big band with guest artists called Bravissimo: 50 Years NDR Bigband (Act 9232-2; 1996) and Bravissimo II: 50 Years NDR Bigband (Act 9259-2; 1998). Geller solos on several of the included tracks such as Lex Jasper’s arrangement of Horace Silver’s “Sister Sadie” recorded when guitarist Joe Pass was the featured guest and trombonist Jiggs Whigham, conductor in a November 1992 concert. Some of Geller’s arrangements are also found on these two CDs.
Back in LA – The Herb Geller Quartet – August 5-6, 1993
V.S.O.P. CD 89
The first recording Geller made in the Los Angeles area after relocating to Germany, this quartet session features Tom Ranier on piano, John Leitham on bass and the great Louie Bellson on drums. Geller had played in Bellson’s big band on several occasions. Four of the leader’s compositions are covered, “Chromatic Cry,” “Bankin’ on Bank” (aka “Celebrating Bird” – for the session producer Dick Bank), “Midnight Memories” and “Stand-Up Comic” (aka “Otto der Film”). Jimmy Rowles replaces Ranier on Rowles’s lovely ballad “The Peacocks.” Geller is heard here on both soprano and alto saxophones. This session was issued on V.S.O.P. 89CD (1994).
Herb Geller Quartet – Herb Geller Plays The Al Cohn Songbook – July 11-12, 1994
Hep 2066
About a year later, Geller was again in Los Angeles this time to record a tribute to Al Cohn. The band retains Ranier and Leitham but Paul Kreibich replaces Bellson on drums. Vocalist Ruth Price is heard on three titles, the leader’s “Mr. Music” (aka “The Groove and I”), the only piece on the album not composed by Cohn, “High on You” with Price’s lyrics and “The Underdog” (aka “Ah Moore) with Dave Frishberg’s lyrics. We are treated to a woodwind bonanza as the versatile Ranier is heard on tenor sax, clarinet and bass clarinet complementing Geller’s alto and soprano saxes. Cohn’s “Pensive” is performed as an alto sax/piano duet. This session was issued on Hep (Eng.) 2066 (1996 CD).
Jan Lundgren Trio with Herb Geller – Stockholm Get-Together – September 11-12, 1994
Fresh Sound 5007
Not long after retiring from the NDR, Geller travelled to Stockholm for a studio session with Swedish pianist Jan Lundgren (b. 1966) and his trio: Lars Lundstrom on bass and Anders Langerlöf on drums. The saxophonist prided himself on his knowledge of both The Great American Songbook and the substantial legacy of works written by jazz musicians. Here we find an impressive array of tunes from both categories as well as two of his own compositions, reprises of “Bankin’ on Bank” (aka “Celebrating Bird”) and “Landscape.” This session was issued on Fresh Sound FSR 5007 (1996 CD).
Herb Geller – Playing Jazz: The Musical Autobiography of Herb Geller – January 16-17, 19-20, 1995
Fresh Sound 5011
At the age of 65, Geller decided to document his life and career by composing a jazz-based musical. This project grew out of the aforementioned tributes he wrote for three of his influences after their deaths: Joe Albany, Chet Baker and Al Cohn. He incorporated these pieces into a musical memoir entitled Playing Jazz that was recorded by the NDR and performed at a festival in Redondo Beach, California in October of 1994.
In January of the following year, he reassembled the formidable Los Angeles trio of Ranier, Leitham, and Kreibich to record this 19-part suite. The quartet was supplemented by two narrators and four vocalists who tell Geller’s story from childhood through his European years, covering personal and professional triumphs and tragedies along with his musical philosophy. This has been issued on Fresh Sound (Sp.) FSR 5011 (1995 CD).
Herb Geller Quartet – I’ll Be Back – April 23-24, 1996
Hep 2074
Back in Hamburg, Geller recorded with his quartet at the time comprised of Ed Harris, guitar, Thomas Biller, bass and Heinrich Köbberling, drums. Of note here is the inclusion of three parts of his “Josephine Baker Suite,” “I’ll Be Back,” “A Bitter Dream” and “Too Little Time.” This suite was commissioned as part of a show called Josephine For a Day that played in Frankfurt in 1994. As always, the choice of material is impeccable, here including such gems as “A Handful of Stars” by Ted Shapiro and Jack Lawrence, his only soprano sax outing, Cole Porter’s “Dream Dancing” and “One Morning In May” by Hoagy Carmichael and Mitchell Parish. This session was issued on Hep (Eng.) 2074 (1998 CD).
Herb Geller Quartet – You’re Looking at Me – February 25-26, 1997
Fresh Sound 5018
Less than a year later, on another trip home to Los Angeles, Geller recorded the entire “Josephine Baker Suite” with Jan Lundgren on piano, Dave Carpenter on bass and Joe La Barbera on drums. Other notable covers include “Orson” by Ellington and Strayhorn, “Summer Night” by Harry Warren and Al Dubin, Cole Porter’s “All Through the Night” and the title tune, a Bobby Troup composition – hardly overdone material. “Restless” by Sam Coslow and Tom Satterfield is performed as a soprano saxophone/piano duet. This session can be found on Fresh Sound (Sp.) FSR 5018 (1997 CD).
Herb Geller & Brian Kellock – Hollywood Portraits – October 5, 1999
Hep 2078
A film lover, Geller did two Hollywood tributes, the first a duo with Scottish pianist Brian Kellock (b. 1962) recorded in Wembley, England. For this project Geller composed twenty new pieces, each one bearing the name of a famous actress, from Marlene Dietrich to Grace Kelly; from Mae West to Judy Holliday – a comprehensive catalog of beautiful and talented women. His soprano sax is heard on five of the pieces, the rest on alto. The moods, tempi and meter vary with some delightful waltzes included and the players are on the same wavelength throughout. Geller related how one of the songs came to be: I had composed a jazz waltz for my wife and called it “Christine”. It played on the radio and my wife did not recognize it so I wrote another waltz called “The Waltz I Wasted On Her” or “The Wasted Waltz.” “Christine” became “Greta Garbo” in the Hollywood Portraits CD. I do not remember which instrument I did it on in Holland but I played it on soprano for the NDR.
Geller’s melodic tendencies as both composer and soloist are demonstrated in this unique collection issued on Hep (Eng.) 2078 (2000 CD).
Herb Geller Quartet – To Benny and Johnny: With Love from Herb Geller – June 16-17, 2001
Hep 2084
Another trip to Los Angeles and another tribute project, this one pays homage to both Benny Carter and Johnny Hodges. Here Geller is backed to perfection by the recently deceased pianist Hod O’Brien (1936-2016), bassist Chuck Berghofer and again, drummer Paul Kreibich. The material is divided between compositions of Carter and those of Ellington and Strayhorn with which Hodges was associated and is a treasure trove of some of the best songs the jazz legacy has to offer and ones not covered that frequently. Of note is Carter’s elegant “Souvenir,” here given a touching performance by the quartet. O’Brien is the perfect stylistic match for Geller but apparently, this is the only time the two recorded together. Of the fourteen tracks, the leader is heard on alto sax on all but two, “Morning Glory” and “Dancers in Love.” “I Didn’t know About You” is an alto sax/piano duet and the brief “Twelve by Two for Squatty Roo,” Geller’s variation of the Hodges classic “Squatty Roo,” finds him backed only by Berghofer. This session was issued on Hep (Eng.) 2084 (2002 CD).
On February 22, 2002 in the Hamburg NDR studios, a very similar tribute was performed in concert where Geller was joined by Charlie Mariano on alto, pianist Jan Lundgren, bassist Jesper Lundgaard and drummer Alex Riel. At one point during the event, Geller speaks by phone with Benny Carter in America before the ensemble performs a medley of Carter’s songs.
Geller’s last commercial American recording took place on September 6, 2003 in Los Angeles, a recreation of the Mel Torme-Marty Paich dectet sessions of the 1950s featuring vocalist/trombonist Eric Felten with arrangements by Brent Wallarab. This was issued on V.S.O.P. 113CD (2004).
Herb Geller in Los Angeles, 2002 – Photo by Ed Berger
Herb Geller & Charlie Mariano – Halle Opera House 2002 – February 17, 2002
Hep 2096
Originally from Boston, saxophonist Charlie Mariano (1923-2009) spent time in the 1950s on the West Coast scene and like, Geller, eventually relocated to Germany. At the Opera house in Halle, Germany, the two veterans got together for a concert where they were backed by Geller’s able Hamburg-based accompanists pianist Burkhard “Buggy” Braune and bassist Thomas Biller, but no drummer. Of the thirteen titles performed, the two altos are both present on eight and the contrast in styles is striking. Mariano is clearly the more adventurous, often venturing into the altissimo range of the horn. Geller, on the other hand, takes a more conventional rhythmic and harmonic approach but swings more fervently. At times the two engage in simultaneous improvisation. The material performed is largely comprised of standards with no original material from either. Nine of the performances, taken from two sets of the concert, have been issued on a double CD: Hep (Eng.) 2096 (2011). As noted above, Geller and Mariano also performed a concert tribute to Johnny Hodges and Benny Carter in Hamburg five days after this event.
Herb Geller with The Roberto Magris Europlane – Il Bello del Jazz– August 28 & 30, 2003
Soul Note 121395-2
Geller made several appearances with the Trieste-based pianist Roberto Magris (b. 1959), another perfect stylistic partner for the saxophonist. In 2003, the two joined forces in a Trieste studio along with Croatian guitarist Darko Jurkovic, German bassist Rudi Engel and another Trieste native, Gabriele Centis on drums. The pianist contributes three original compositions, “No Sadness,” “Il Bello del Jazz” and “Parker’s Pen” while Geller offers his swinger “Stray Form” and a waltz entitled “Deception.” Yet again, the Great American Songbook is mined for seldom-heard gems such as “A New Town Is a Blue Town” by Richard Adler and Jerry Ross from the show The Pajama Game, “Here I’ll Stay” by Kurt Weill and Alan Lerner from Love Life and “Pretty Women” by Stephen Sondheim from Sweeney Todd. This session was issued on Soul Note (It.) 121395-2 (2006 CD).
A live appearance at the Novosadski Jazz Festival in Serbia on November 19, 2009 features the quartet of Geller, Magris, Slovenian bassist Nikola Matosic and Italian drummer Enzo Carpentieri recorded and issued on An Evening with Herb Geller & the Roberto Magris Trio: Live in Europe 2009, JMood 012 (2014 CD). This CD also includes two tracks from a club appearance by the same quartet in Vienna a couple of weeks later.
Herb Geller Quartet and Duo – Plays the Arthur Schwartz Songbook – November 15 & 19, 2004 and March 22, 2005
Hep 2089
Recorded in London with Geller backed by the trio of John Pearce on piano, Len Skeat on bass and Bobby Worth on drums, three sessions produced recordings of no less than seventeen Arthur Schwartz songs, mostly those with Howard Dietz as lyricist. The leader plays soprano sax on “Then I’ll Be Tired of You,” “By Myself” and “I Guess I’ll Have to Change My Plans,” alto on all the rest, two of which, “A Shine on My Shoes” and “How Sweet You Are,” are duets with Pearce. This material is issued on Hep (Eng.) 2089 (2006 CD).
Al Porcino Big Band & Herb Geller – May 12, 2005
ABB 003
Geller’s association with the great trumpeter Al Porcino (1925-2013) goes all the way back to the Jerry Wald orchestra in 1952. They also played together in the bands of Shorty Rogers and Bill Holman. Porcino moved to Germany in 1977 where he organized a big band and in 2005, Geller guested with the ensemble at a concert in Ingolstadt. The varied program includes arrangements by Tiny Kahn, Bob Brookmeyer, Joe Timer, Frank Wess, Bill Holman, Don Piestrup, Benny Carter, Marty Paich and Johnny Mandel. Geller is heard on six of the sixteen issued tracks that are found on ABB (Ger.) 003 (2006 CD).
Geller provided the following amusing anecdote regarding Porcino’s band: An interesting thing about the Porcino recording: He had an arrangement of one of my favorites, ‘Warm Valley.’ It was arranged by Marty Paich, featuring baritone sax by Bill Hood. Somehow Marty got something wrong. The original (Duke [Ellington]) was in Bb with the bridge going to E major. It is the only song I know that puts the release up an augmented 4th. Marty wrote it in C but instead of going to Gb he put it in F (a 4th up). I told Al about it and he lent me the score to correct it. I put the bridge in the proper key and printed out the entire chart and mailed it back along with the new score. I was told later that the next time it was performed by Al, half the band played the original and half the new version. I suppose that was the last time it was played.
Rein de Graaff Trio with Herb Geller & John Marshall – Blue Lights: The Music of Gigi Gryce – July 10, 2005
Blue Jack BJJR 042
The Dutch pianist Rein de Graaff (b. 1942) has always been an admirer of saxophonist/composer/arranger Gigi Gryce (1925-1983) and in 2005, Gryce’s 80th birth anniversary year, assembled a quintet focusing on his music. Herb Geller assumed Gryce’s role on alto sax and John Marshall (b. 1952), another ex-patriot American who moved to Cologne, stood in for a number of trumpet masters working with Gryce in the 1950s including Clifford Brown, Art Farmer, Donald Byrd and Richard Williams. Bassist Marius Beets and drummer Eric Ineke, both frequent de Graaff collaborators, rounded out the ensemble which appeared at the North Sea Jazz Festival two days before the studio recording was done.
Nine Gryce compositions were revisited including his three most recorded pieces, “Minority,” Social Call” and “Nica’s Tempo.” We also are treated to the minor blues “Blue Lights” and two exquisite ballads, “Evening in Casablanca” and “Reminiscing.” In general, the quintet adheres to Gryce’s arrangements as found on the many recordings he made in the 1950s for the Prestige, Riverside and Columbia labels under his own name, with Art Farmer and as co-leader (with Donald Byrd) of the “Jazz Lab.” This session was issued on Blue Jack (Du.) BJJR 042 (2005 CD).
Prior to this project (2002), Geller and de Graaff recorded a live duo album, Delightful Duets 2, issued on Blue Jack 022 (2004 CD).
Herb Geller + Eleven Play Modern Jazz Classics – October 6, 2006
On March 14, 1959, Geller was part of the band backing alto saxophonist Art Pepper on four tracks of the highly regarded Contemporary Records album Art Pepper + Eleven: Modern Jazz Classics. The arranger was Marty Paich (1925-1995) a friend and colleague of Geller’s going back to 1954 in Los Angeles. Geller revisited these classic charts on several occasions, assuming Pepper’s role as leader and main soloist: I did that production 4 times. The first time was in Long Beach for Ken Poston, the second Time for the BBC with Jiggs Whigham conducting in a studio, the third time was in Frankfurt with Conte Candoli and the Hessischer Rundfunk Orchestra with Jörg Achim Keller conducting and finally in Hamburg where I also conducted.
The last of these concerts took place in 2006 at the Hamburg Fabrik Club with a 13-piece ensemble that added vibraphonist Wolfgang Schlüter to the original instrumentation. Whereas Pepper played alto and tenor saxophones and clarinet on the original recordings, Geller opts for alto and soprano saxes. The band includes three of Geller’s students, saxophonists Fiete Felsch, Lutz Büchner and Edgar Herzog. The drummer on this occasion was the American Danny Gottlieb in a relatively rare (for him) straight-ahead context. This live date has not been issued although bootleg copies have circulated.
Herb Geller – At the Movies – March 26, 2007
Hep 2092
Geller’s second Hollywood tribute would be his last session as a leader for an established label and was recorded in Zeist, The Netherlands with the recently deceased piano legend Don Friedman (1935-2016), German bassist Martin Wind and Dutch drummer Hans Braber. This quartet was touring Germany and Holland at the time of the recording. Although Geller and Friedman had met in Los Angeles in the early 1950s, this was the only time the two recorded together. On three titles, the Dutch guitarist Martien Oster is added.
The program involves fourteen movie themes, some well-known standards like the eponymous “Laura” and “I Wish I Knew” (from Diamond Horseshoe) and others more obscure such as a medley from Taxi Driver. “Call Me Irresponsible” from Papa’s Delicate Condition is a Geller-Wind duet while “The Bad and the Beautiful” finds Friedman and the leader engaging in a dialogue. Geller is on alto sax throughout. This session was issued on Hep (Eng.) 2092 (2007 CD).
Bassist Chuck Berghofer and Herb Geller at the Lighthouse Cafe in Los Angeles – date unknown – Photo by Larry Israels
Herb Geller and Barack Obama
Geller was a great admirer of Barack Obama and was inspired by the hope and progress his 2008 candidacy and subsequent election represented. He wrote and recorded two tributes, one entitled “Obama Bound” (September 2008) and another, “Diplobamacy” (March 2009), both of which can be found on YouTube but have never been issued. Here are his comments: The YouTube song was ‘Obama Bound.’ Originally I used the melody of ‘Alabama Bound’ with my lyric but was informed the rights were not granted so I wrote the new melody and recorded it again. I also did another YouTube thing called ‘Diplobamacy.’ I did ‘Diplobamacy’ about two months after Barack was sworn in. A friend, Swen Kohlwage, has a small studio in Altona which is part of Hamburg. As you can see, there is no piano there. On the ‘Obama Bound’ YouTube production, Buggy Braune played keyboard, the singer was Robbie Smith [son of Harold Smith – see above] and the drums and bass were synthesized by me. I am not sure of the date but it was around September 2008. On ‘Diplobamacy,’ the drummer was Derek Scherzer; bassist, Phillip Steen; keyboard, Buggy Braune. The singer was Kai Podak.
On November 2, 2008, just days before the election, Geller performed “Obama Bound” with the NDR Big Band at a Hamburg concert in honor of his 80th birthday. Parts of this concert have been issued on a privately produced CD, Klaus Scholz Private Jazz Archives (Ger.) CDKSCD 0900 – Herb Geller Wird 80: Birthday Party At NDR’s Rolf Liebermann Hall(2009).
Conclusion
Geller continued to perform while dealing with serious health issues including lymphoma. The last recording he made appears to be a live concert in Hamburg, in June of 2012. He cut quite a swath during his half-century in Europe, a taste of which I hope this discographical synopsis has provided. He was a multi-talented artist with abilities as a fluent and recognizable soloist on several woodwind instruments, a composer and arranger, educator and with an encyclopedic knowledge of the jazz repertoire, he strove for perfection in all his musical endeavors. While much of his oeuvre remains buried in the archives of the NDR, there are still many projects that saw the light of day and are definitely worth exploring. I hope the reader will have a listen.
Sources:
Myers, Marc. Interviews with Herb Geller done in 2010 and published on the JazzWax website.
Jack, Gordon. Fifties Jazz Talk: An Oral Retrospective, Oxford: The Scarecrow Press, 2004, pp. 88-98.
Lind, Jack. Herb Geller’s European Rebirth, DownBeat, January 3, 1963, p. 23.
Stewart, Zan. Saxman Geller Makes the Long Journey Home, Los Angeles Times, July 30, 1993.
Stewart, Zan. Working in a World of Unheard Wonders, Los Angeles Times, August 8, 1997.
Kohlhaase, Bill. Abroad Base, Los Angeles Times, June 5, 1998.
Heckman, Don. Geller’s German Gig Lasts a Lifetime, Los Angeles Times, June 15, 2001.
Geller, Herb. Email exchanges with the author between August 2008 and December 2012.
Berger, Ed. Email to the author, December 2, 2016.
Taylor, Mark. Phone call with the author, December 23, 2016.
Information from the NDR Archives provided by a source wishing to remain anonymous.