Noal Cohen's Jazz History Website
- Jazz Miscellany
- Rochester Jazz
- Jazz in Rochester, NY, 1955-1961
- List of Rochester Jazz Musicians, 1955-1961
- Club & Concert Bookings - Major Artists - 1955
- Club Bookings - Local Artists - 1955
- Club & Concert Bookings - Major Artists - 1956
- Club Bookings - Local Artists - 1956
- Club & Concert Bookings - Major Artists - 1957
- Club Bookings - Local Artists - 1957
- Club & Concert Bookings - Major Artists - 1958
- Club Bookings - Local Artists - 1958
- Club & Concert Bookings - Major Artists - 1959
- Club Bookings - Local Artists - 1959
- Herb Geller pages
- Herb Geller Discography (Sessions as Leader, Co-Leader or Guest Artist)
- Herb Geller Discography (Sessions as Sideman 1949-1961)
- The Herb Geller Discography (Sessions as Sideman 1962-Present)
- The Compositions of Herb Geller
- Musicians Performing with Herb Geller
- Additional Recordings with Herb Geller
- Herb Geller's Website
- Jazz Profiles Interview with Herb Geller
The Herb Geller Discography
With the assistance of Bärbel Kolodzik (NDR) and Bill Damm
When I first got into jazz in the early 1950s, the “West Coast” school was very much in vogue. There were a number of fine musicians based in Los Angeles at the time who were recording prolifically and garnering accolades from the critics. Prominent among these were alto saxophonists Art Pepper, Bud Shank, Buddy Collette and Lennie Niehaus. While all richly talented players, it was another who really caught my attention and that was Herb Geller. To me, Geller’s playing was more vital and moved me in a way the others didn’t. He made several notable recordings for the Emarcy label in 1954 and 1955, often in the company of his wife, Portland, Oregon-born pianist Lorraine Walsh Geller who died tragically at the age of only 30 in 1958 due to pulmonary edema.
Geller was born in Los Angeles on November 2, 1928 and while still in his teens, was playing professionally. He paid his dues touring and recording with big bands including Jerry Wald, Claude Thornhill and Earle Spencer. After returning to LA in 1952, he quickly became a part of that milieu recording with Shorty Rogers, Chet Baker, Maynard Ferguson and many others. In 1962 he relocated to Europe, ultimately settling in Hamburg, Germany where, for 28 years, he was on the staff of the Norddeutschen Rundfunk (NDR).
Over the years, Geller has recorded and appeared widely in the USA and Europe and although his style has certainly evolved, it retains the beautiful tone and emotional impact that I originally had found so appealing. Some of his finest work can be found on sessions for the Enja, Fresh Sound and Hep labels recorded between the late 1980s and the present. Now in his ninth decade, he continues to perform regularly, mostly in Europe.
Geller’s improvisational style emphasizes musicality, taste and lyricism undoubtedly derived from one of his main influences, the legendary Benny Carter. His solos, like those of many of the greatest jazz players, are constructed compositionally, relying on form rather than patterns. In addition to the alto saxophone, he also has mastered the difficult soprano sax as well as flutes and other woodwinds. A prolific composer, he has contributed a number of appealing pieces, one of my favorites being the haunting bossa nova “Landscape.”
The recorded history of Herb Geller is extensive involving some of the finest musicians in Europe and America and a variety of genres. In order to bring some order to this complex project, I have chosen to divide the discography into three sections starting with his sessions as leader, co-leader and guest artist. Parts two and three address the sessions as sideman in the USA and Europe, respectively. During his nearly three decades at NDR, he recorded frequently with the NDR Big Band (originally the NDR Studio Band) and many of these sessions can be found in part 3 of the discography. I fear, however, that I have only scratched the surface of the his NDR legacy. If anyone can supply details on NDR concerts not found in the discography, with Geller as sideman or featured artist, I would very much appreciate hearing from you.
One final caveat involves sessions outside of the jazz genre.
Geller participated in many throughout his career and they are
very hard to track down (even harder to obtain detailed discographical information). In many instances, his involvement
was simply to overdub a saxophone or woodwind part to an
existing track. Here is a list of some issues not found in the
discography to which Geller contributes:
For further information on Geller’s career and current activities, see his own website.
Please email me with any additions, corrections or comments.
Many thanks to Mark Betcher, Wilhelm Borgschulte, Mark Cantor, Gary Carner, Steve Cerra, Ed Chaplin, Wellington Choy, Jeroen de Valk, Ross Firestone, Michael Fitzgerald, Jim Harrod, Wolfgang Köhler, Hans Jensen, Howard Johnson, Peter Linhart, Ashley Kahn, the late Bob McCaffery, the late Ron Meyers, Joe Peterson, Ken Poston, John Reeder, Michel Ruppli, Gordon Sapsed, Todd Selbert, Dan Stewart, Bob Sunenblick, Jeff Thompson, Uwe Weiler, Lars Westin, Jürgen Wölfer and Herb Geller himself for providing information.