Herb Geller

Herb Geller

born on 2/11/1928 in Los Angeles, CA, United States

died on 19/12/2013 in Hamburg, Hamburg, Germany

Herb Geller

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia.

Herbert Arnold Geller (November 2, 1928 – December 19, 2013) was an American jazz saxophonist, composer and arranger. He was born in Los Angeles, California.[1]

Early life

His mother, Frances (née Frances Mildred Fullman, also known as Fannie Fullman; 1899–1980), worked at the Hollywood neighborhood cinemas playing piano, accompanying silent movies. At the age of 8, Geller was presented with an alto saxophone, purchased from a local music store owner and music teacher who was also a family friend and had a used instrument for sale. Two years later he started playing the 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 and Vi Redd. 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.[1]

A short time later he discovered the music of Charlie Parker, who became an important idol along with Benny Carter and Johnny Hodges. 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 pianist Lorraine Walsh in Los Angeles. Geller and Walsh got married in New York and she became an important musical partner, in addition to pursuing her own solo career.


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. 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 DownBeat magazine and achieved worldwide recognition through his recordings with Clifford Brown. Later Geller worked in the bands of Louie Bellson and Benny Goodman.

Lorraine Geller died of an acute asthma attack in 1958. Deeply depressed, Herb Geller decided during a tour through Brazil with the Benny Goodman Orchestra not to return to the United States, but instead to stay in São Paulo for six weeks playing Bossa Nova music at a local club and then depart on a ship to Europe.


Arriving in Paris Geller played with Kenny Clarke, Kenny Drew, the French pianist Martial Solal, and Belgian guitarist René Thomas among others, and also toured with a French radio show, Musique Aux Champs-Elysées.

In 1962 he was offered a job with the big band of the Radio in the American Sector (RIAS) station in Berlin.[2] He accepted this engagement and performed there along with other Americans expatriates In Europe such as Benny Bailey, Joe Harris, and Nat Peck, as well as European musicians like 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 NDR in Hamburg. Here he was engaged for 28 years and made Hamburg his home. During this time the NDR big band developed from a post-war dance orchestra into a leading modern jazz ensemble. 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 NDR, Geller was also busy with other things, including his own productions and tours. During this time he also participated in recordings and worked with such famous artists as Ray Charles, Ella Fitzgerald, Peter Herbolzheimer, and George Gruntz among others.

During his tenure at NDR, he also learned and performed on other woodwind instruments, including 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 Senate of the Government of Hamburg gave him the title of "Professor". He taught at the Hochschule für Musik in Hamburg until his retirement. He continued teaching jazz improvisation and composition, occasionally doing seminars at various national and international institutes. He wrote a method of improvisation called "crossover" for Schott and Sons.

Geller performed 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. He was very proud of his friendship with Benny Carter, his adolescent hero, with whom he recorded and performed. Geller participated at the Hollywood Bowl celebrations for Carter's ninetieth birthday in 1997. In 2008 he was featured on the Berlin Jazz Orchestra, music DVD (Polydor/Universal) Strangers In Night - The Music Of Bert Kaempfert which was released in 2012.

Geller died of pneumonia in a hospital in Hamburg, Germany, aged 85, on December 19, 2013. He had been undergoing treatment the past 12 months for a form of lymphoma.[3] He is interred at Forest Lawn Memorial Park in Glendale, California. (Plot: Commemoration, Map 1, Lot 3893).[4]


As leader

  • 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 re-issue from 1957 Jubilee (Josie)
  • 1975: Rhyme and Reason / Herb Geller Octet Featuring Mark Murphy & Earl Jordan  (Atlantic Records)
  • 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 CD) (reissue from 1957)
  • 1993: Herb Geller Quartet  (V.S.O.P.)
  • 1996: Birdland Stomp  (Fresh Sound)
  • 1996: Herb Geller Plays (Japan import remaster, 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) (reissue from 1954)
  • 2005: The Gellers  (Membran) (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)
  • 2009: An Evening With Herb Geller & The Roberto Magris Trio - Live in Europe 2009 (JMood, 2014)

As sideman

With Chet Baker

  • The Trumpet Artistry of Chet Baker – Pacific Jazz (1953)
  • Grey December – Pacific Jazz (1992; reissue from 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 Louie Bellson

  • The Brilliant Bellson Sound (Verve, 1959)
  • Louis Bellson at The Flamingo (Verve, 1959)

With Buddy Bregman

  • Swinging Kicks (Verve, 1957)

With Clifford Brown

With Maynard Ferguson

  • Jam Session featuring Maynard Ferguson (EmArcy, 1954)
  • Dimensions (EmArcy, 1955)
  • Maynard Ferguson Octet (EmArcy, 1955)
  • Around the Horn with Maynard Ferguson (EmArcy, 1956)

With Stan Getz, Francy Boland and the Kenny Clarke/Francy Boland Big Band

  • Change of Scenes (Verve, 1971)

With Stan Kenton

  • This Modern World (Capitol, 1953)

With Barney Kessel

  • Carmen (Contemporary, 1959)

with Dinah Washington

  • Dinah! (1956)
  • Dinah Jams (1954)

with Ella Fitzgerald

  • Ella Fitzgerald Sings the Cole Porter Songbook (1956)

With Shorty Rogers

  • Shorty Rogers Courts the Count (RCA Victor, 1954)
  • Shorty Rogers Plays Richard Rodgers (RCA Victor, 1957)
  • Portrait of Shorty (RCA Victor, 1957)
  • Afro-Cuban Influence (RCA Victor, 1958)
  • The Wizard of Oz and Other Harold Arlen Songs (RCA Victor, 1959)

With others

  • Bravissimo II – 50 Years NDR Bigband – (ACT) (1998)
  • Mel Tormé, Mel Tormé Collection – (Rhino) (1996)
  • Anita O'Day, Comp(ACT) Jazz – (Verve) (1993)
  • Various Artists, The Complete Cole Porter Songbooks – (Verve) (1993)
  • Blue Night Special (Milan) (1993)
  • Rolf Kühn, Big Band Connection – (Milan) (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)
  • Anita O'Day, Anita O'Day Sings the Winners – (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)
  • Art Pepper, Art Pepper + Eleven: Modern Jazz Classics – (Original Jazz Classics) (1959)
  • Art Pepper, Art Pepper, Plus Eleven – Analogue (1959)
  • 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/SWI (1956)
  • Bill Holman, The Bill Holman Octet – (Capitol) (1954)
  • Lorraine Geller, Lorraine Geller Memorial – (Fresh Sound) (1954)
  • Various Artists, The Best of Chess Jazz – MCA (1950)
  • Various Artists, Best of the Big Bands: Comp(ACT) Jazz – (Verve)
  • Jazz‚ 'Round Midnight (Saxophone) – (Verve)
  • Benny Goodman, Swing Swing Swing, Vol. 1- 5 Musicmasters
  • 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
  • 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 & His Men Play Peter Gunn – Contemporary (1959)
  • Howard Rumsey, Howard Rumsey's Lighthouse Allstars – OJC – Fantasy
  • Stan Kenton's Small Group, Plays Bob Graettinger: City Of Glass – (Capitol)
  • Klaus Weiss Orchestra, Live At The Domicile – ATM
  • 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)
  • Nils Gessinger, Pass -ion (2011)
  • Wolfgang Schlüter with The NDR Big Band, Good Vibrations – Extra
  • Inga Rumpf With the NDR Big Band, It's A Man's World – Extra
  • Earle Spencer (1949)
  • Roberto Magris Europlane feat. Herb Geller – Il bello del Jazz (Soul Note, 2006)


  1. ^ a b 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
  2. ^ 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.
This page was last modified 03.04.2019 23:09:35

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