Glasgow Art Club, 3rd February 2011
Herb Geller makes it all looks so easy. He sat there, perched on a tall stool, and produced a stream of superb alto playing. It could be argued that there’s nothing new about his style of mainstream post-bop, but that misses the point that he was one of the pioneers of this idiom, way back in the fifties.
As well as the quality of his playing, what stood out about this concert was Geller’s ability to find interesting tunes which hardly anyone else plays. In 1934, Mae West appeared in a film called “Belle of the Nineties”, where she sang two songs backed by the Duke Ellington Orchestra. One of them was “My Old Flame”. Geller gave us the other one, “Troubled Waters”, and left me wondering why it wasn’t performed more often. The best known pieces he did all night were a couple of tunes from a series of Billy Strayhorn numbers, and even then he managed to slip a totally obscure number, “Orson”, from an abortive film project Strayhorn worked on with Orson Welles and Welles’ then girlfriend, Eartha Kitt, into the sequence. There were also mini-suites of music by Al Cohn, who Geller argues is much under-rated as a composer, and by Benny Carter.
Paul Kirby on piano, Martin Zenker on bass and Rick Hollander on drums provided classy backing, but it was the effortlessly inventive 82-year-old Geller who was the star of the evening.
Unfortunately some of the most unpleasant weather Glasgow’s seen in a long time (gales and torrential rain) kept the audience numbers down, but those who did make it out were treated to a demonstration of how it should be done by one of the true masters. Sheer class.
The previous night’s Edinburgh gig got a glowing review in the Scotsman.