Herb Geller, Darmstädters And “Django”

herb geller eyes closedHerb Geller is at home in Hamburg, Germany, recovering from a health setback. Until fairly recently, the octogenarian alto saxophonist’s demanding schedule had him in clubs and at festivals throughout Europe. One of those events was the Darmstädter Big Band’s Kentomania tour featuring music written for Stan Kenton’s band by Bill Holman, Gerry Mulligan, Bob Curnow and others. Geller is featured here in Bill Mathieu’s arrangement of “Django” by John Lewis. In addition to Geller’s solo, the performance is notable for the resounding bottom notes provided by the brass section’s two bass trombones.

This was in 2010, when Geller was only 81.

darmstadter big band cover

According to the only evidence we have been able to uncover that it exists— pictured on the right—the Darmstädters and Geller made a record of the Kenton project. Although the website of the band’s leader, Peter Linhart, lists such an album in its CD section, there is no information about how to acquire it. Perhaps one of our Rifftides readers in Germany will know and let us in on the secret.

We wish Mr. Geller a speedy recovery.

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  1. Roberto Magris says

    I performed several times in Europe with Herb in the past years and he’s one of the few jazz legends we still have on the scene, even if people sometimes aren’t aware. Herb is a stylist and a fantastic musician, as well as a real gentleman, who deserves much more recognition and honours today !!!

  2. Bruce Armstrong says

    Hearing that great Bill Mathieu arrangement of “Django” played live in the 21st Century brought back some good memories of listening to the original Kenton recording on the “Standards in Silhouette” album when I was in college. On my CD copy Mathieu said that Charlie Mariano’s solos on that album–“especially on ‘Django’ provided the spark and authenticity the album needed.” Not to take anything away from Herb’s fine performance, but Charlie’s solo on “Django” ranks as a classic in my humble opinion. As for Herb, God bless him on his long and distinguished jazz career. I have been a fan since my high school days when I first bought his early quartet recordings with his late wife, Lorraine. I knew Herb was a world-class alto soloist the first time I heard him flying through the “Cherokee” changes on one of those early recordings. That he has continued to maintain that level of artistry deserves to be acknowledged by every fan of modern jazz. Thanks for posting.

  3. Joe Lang says

    Thanks to you, I found out about Peter Linhart’s album “Kentomania” with the Dormstaedter Bigband, and was able to obtain a review copy from him. I wrote the review for the next issue of Jersey Jazz, and thought that you might enjoy seeing it.

    “Kentomania” (Peter Linhart – No Catalog Number) is a superb collection of arrangements for the Kenton band played by the DARMSTÄDTER BIGBAND under the leadership of Peter Linhart, featuring the alto sax of Herb Geller. There are 13 tracks that include arrangements covering the life of the Kenton band from the 1940s to the 1970s, with an emphasis on ‘50s and ‘70s material. Four of the selections, “Indiana” arranged by Bill Holman, “Works” arranged by Holman, “I Remember You” arranged by Holman, and “Meet the Flintstones” arranged by Dave Barduhn, were never commercially recorded by the Kenton band. Hearing some rare Bill Holman charts is a big plus. The other selections are “Artistry in Rhythm,” “Where or When,” “Decoupage,” “Malaguena,” “Django,” “Live and Let Die,” “Stella by Starlight,” “Granada Smoothie” and “Send in the Clowns.” The Darmstädter Bigband is a tight aggregation of outstanding players who really dig into these challenging charts with excellent results. The sound on the recording is brilliant, and allows you hear these charts with a new freshness. It has always been a pleasure to hear Herb Geller, who is now approaching his 85th birthday. This recording took place three years ago, and his playing was still strong. If you dig big band sounds, particularly those of Stan Kenton, this disc will give your ears a hip party. (This disc is available only at Peter Linhart’s website (http://www.peterlinhart.de/Home.html). Click on the Contact/Links option to get his e-mail and mailing addresses. The CD is $20, including postage.)