Two alto saxophonists who came to prominence in the second wave of bebop celebrated birthdays on the same day this week. On Wednesday, November 2, Herb Geller (on the right) turned 83, Phil Woods, (left) 80. Geller has lived in Hamburg, Germany, since 1965. Woods lives in Delaware Water Gap, Pennsylvania. Both have active international playing careers. Geller’s daughter Olivia wrote that her dad was “gutted” when the day before his birthday he got the news of pianist Walter Norris’s death; their association went back to the early 1950s. His spirits soon came up, she wrote, and he played two gigs this week, Thursday at a Greek restaurant and his birthday concert last night at the Hamburg Birdland: “So no big celebration or anything out of the ordinary,” Olivia said, “just his usual not-showing off personality.”
Here’s Geller at a mere 82 not showing off last February at the Blue Lamp in Aberdeen, Scotland, with Paul Kirby, piano; Martin Zenker, bass; and Rick Hollander, drums.
In the fall of 2010, Woods traveled to Spain for a performance with the Barcelona Jazz Orquestra. This video gives us a polished rehearsal of “My Man Benny,” Woods’s tribute to Benny Carter. I cannot identify the tenor saxophone soloist. The pianist is Ignasi Terraza.
On November 13, Woods will be knee-deep in the Zoot Fest honoring Zoot Sims and Al Cohn at East Stroudsburg University in the Poconos Mountains of Pennsylvania.
Happy birthday, gentlemen. Many more, please.