Correspondence: When Mike And Joe Dug Herb

In response to last month’s post Herb Geller At 80, Rifftides reader Mike Baughan sent the following account of hearing Geller under fortuitous circumstances.

On a ‘post-divorce find-myself-solo vacation’ to Norway in 2002, I was fortunate enough to attend some events of the Oslo Jazz Festival. Saw the Swedish guitarist Ulf Wakenius perform a lively set. At the show’s conclusion they invited those interested to meet at The Oslo Grand Hotel for a jam session. Traveling alone, I had no tight schedule, so I went not knowing what it would be like.

The opening band was Herb Geller’s Quartet. Many musicians finishing up their sets

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 around town sauntered in, with an almost devout attention to Herb’s playing. Among them was Joe Lovano who stood right next to me (!) After a few minutes, I got my nerve up and asked Mr. Lovano if I could buy him a drink. In a long 5 seconds I felt like a fool for asking him, followed by his: “Well of course you can!” In return for the snifter of Courvoisier, I told him, it’d cost him a photo, which hangs prominently on this jazz fan’s wall!

For the next hour, Mr. Lovano was my best friend on this earth. What a kind human being!

Most of our talk was about the state of jazz in Europe in contrast to the USA, but with an emphasis on what a strong role Herb Geller plays in that scene. 

As I talked to him, Joe was approached by many other musicians urging him to go up & jam w/ Herb, but he politely declined while introducing me (“Mike from North Carolina”) as his new friend. He pointed out techniques, intricacies, & nuances of Herb’s playing that even I, a non-musician, could understand. Most importantly, his respect for Herb in the pantheon of jazz history was incredible.


I was enthralled! Needless to say, it’s my favorite jazz fan story. Joe & Herb are both class acts in my book. Words can’t express. Pardon the rant, but I’m still fascinated by that evening. Happy Birthday to Mr. Geller. Love your Desmond book. Happy Holidays.

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Mike Baughan, Joe Lozano, Oslo, 2002

Thanks to Dr. Baughan for a good story well told.

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