Herb Geller: European Rebirth – 1962 Paris Sessions

The altoist is heard in previously unreleased recordings made for French radio after he moved to Paris to escape personal tragedy in the US


Herb Geller has been forgotten by some over the years. Influenced by Benny Carter and Charlie Parker, he worked with big bands such as Claude Thornhill’s in the late 1940s. In the 1950s he performed and recorded with Maynard Ferguson, Shorty Rogers, Wardel Grey, Chet Baker and Clifford Brown among others. While Geller was associated with the growing West Coast school of jazz, he actually felt closer to the jazz being played in New York and became one of the decade’s top bop alto saxophonists.

While he was on the road with Benny Goodman’s orchestra in 1958, his 28-year-old wife died suddenly at home. Geller, then 30, became deeply depressed and subsequently moved to Paris in 1962 on the advice of Stan Getz. His stay abroad helped to ease his depression and rejuvenate him. The recordings he made for French radio during this period are released here for the first time.

On 15 of the album’s tracks he’s backed by some of the best French musicians on the scene. We hear standards, originals and bop numbers played by Geller in his prime after a period when it seemed his career had come to a halt. On numbers such as Crazeology, CTA and Brake’s Sake he’s positively effervescent. On the majority of tracks Geller is backed by Jack Dieval on piano, Jacques Hess on bass and Franco Manzecchi on drums. For six of these the quartet expands to include Sonny Gray on trumpet, Francois Jeanneau on tenor and in It’s You Or No One, Dany Doriz on vibes. In four other numbers pianist Henri Renaud joins Geller in a quartet playing Renaud originals with bass and drums unknown. There are also two bonus tracks recorded at jazz festivals in San Remo, Italy (with Kenny Drew on piano) and Bled in Yugoslavia.

These splendid recordings have excellent sound quality and comprise the first known examples of Geller’s “rebirth”. The CD comes with a 12-page booklet containing personnel, session details and interesting biographical notes on Geller compiled by Jordi Pujol.

Crazeology; Brake’s Sake; C.T.A.; Foolin’ Myself; I Didn’t Know About You; It’s You Or No One; I Should Care; Moanin’; Tabou; There’s No Greater Love; While the Cigarette Was Burning; Tominique C; Greta, No.1; Solo for Gaby; Oscar Is Happy; Blue ’n’ Boogie; A Cool Day (Bled & Butter) (74.29)
Geller (as); Sonny Grey, Bernard Vitet (t); François Jeanneau (ts); Jack Dieval, René Urtreger, Henri Renaud, Kenny Drew, Renato Sellani (p); Dany Doriz (vib); Jacques Hess, Michel Gaudry, Pierre Michelot, Rajko Milosavljevic (b); Franco Manzecchi, Teddy Martin, Larry Ritchie, Jimmy Pratt (d). Paris, 1962.
Fresh Sound Records FSRCD 1117