Rifftides reader Marc Myers writes:
Among the most underrated and barely celebrated pianists from the 1950s has to be Lorraine Geller, the late wife of alto saxophonist Herb Geller, who today lives in Germany. Stylistically, Lorraine was a funky bop cross between Bud Powell and Horace Silver. She can be heard playing with Herb on a number of solid Emarcy LPs from the mid-50s, including Herb Geller Plays and the stunning The Gellers. Just listen to “Araphoe” from The Gellers, which is set to Cherokee changes–or the loping “Two of a Kind.”
No mouse, Lorraine was always in full command. She also can be heard on
Miles Davis and The Lighthouse All-Stars and was a sidewoman on many notable West Coast 1950s dates. Some of her solo efforts are captured on the import, Lorraine Geller at the Piano. But my favorites feature Lorraine playing in Maynard Ferguson’s Dimensions and Around the Horn big bands of 1955-56. Perhaps her high point was her vamping front and center on Bill Holman’s “Dancing Nitely,” which builds steadily and showcases Lorraine’s signature touch throughout. And dig her on Holman’s “Wildman.” The Ferguson sessions can be found on Jazz Masters 52. Lorraine died of a heart ailment shortly after her 30th birthday in October 1958. Sadly, she’s all but forgotten today. Here’s to Lorraine Geller!
Thanks to Mr. Myers for those leads to the work of a pianist who deserves the attention–and more. She came in for mention in this Rifftides item from April, 2006. While we’re visiting the past, we may as well replay the Doug’s Picks that occasioned that piece.
Herb Geller Plays the Arthur Schwartz Songbook (Hep). The enduring, and enduringly inventive, alto and soprano saxophonist visits seventeen songs by the unclassifiable composer of whom Alec Wilder said, “quality was his style.” Melody was his style, too. Schwartz wrote songs that brighten the atmosphere of American life; “Dancing in the Dark,” “You and the Night and the Music,” “Gal in Calico,” “A Shine on My Shoes,” “Alone Together” and the others addressed by Geller and an excellent rhythm section of Britons barely known outside the UK. As tough-minded and disciplined as musicians come, Geller reaches deeply into these songs to extract beauty and joy. The Schwartz pieces bring out the romantic aspect of his nature and–I rather imagine–of the listeners’. In Geller’s hands, “That’s Entertainment,” the album closer, is a smile-inducing bebop romp.
Rahsaan Roland Kirk: Brotherman in the Fatherland (Hyena). Kirk died in 1977, but Hyena’s Joel Dorn keeps finding music by the astonishing multi-instrumentalist that is worth issuing. In this case, it comes from a 1972 date at the Funkhaus in Hamburg, Germany. The album finds Kirk fully armed with tenor saxophone, flute, nose flute, manzello, stritch, clarinet and siren. Now and then, he plays three of the horns at once. Early in his career, he was accused of using that capability as a gimmick. But Kirk’s real gimmicks, if you care to think of them that way, were his deep musicianship and his massive, unending, energy. He unleashes both in a breathtaking seventeen-and-a-half-minute examination of the blues on John Coltrane’s “Blue Trane.” I would call it the highlight of the CD, except for Kirk’s live cross-fade from a gloriously unadorned “Lush Life” on tenor sax to manzello and the Latin urgencies of “Afro Blue.” This is exciting stuff.