|Birth Day:||November 2, 1928|
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After hearing Benny Carter perform at the Orpheum Theatre in Los Angeles when he was fourteen years old, he decided to pursue music professionally.
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.
In 1962 he was offered a job with the big band of the Radio in the American Sector (RIAS) station in Berlin. 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.
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, Jan Lundgren and Roberto Magris. 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. He is interred at Forest Lawn Memorial Park in Glendale, California.
Currently, Herb Geller is 93 years, 10 months and 26 days old. Herb Geller will celebrate 94th birthday on a Wednesday 2nd of November 2022.
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