Sometimes it can be a struggle to put on some new music. I find a lot of comfort in listening to my favorite albums over and over again. While I do deepen my understanding and appreciation of this music when I listen to it again, it is important to be exposed to more artists. I am really thankful one of my incredible mentors Allan Chase (who has his own amazing blog) introduced me to the music of Lorraine and Herb Geller.
Pianist Lorraine Geller (1928-1958) was born in Portland, Oregon. From 1949 to 1952, she played with the International Sweethearts of Rhythm led by Anna Mae Winburn. She played with many legendary West Coast jazz artists including Zoot Sims and Stan Getz.
Alto saxophonist Herb Geller (1928-2013) was born in Los Angeles, California. He attended Dorsey High School long with saxophonists Eric Dolphy and Vi Redd. Herb worked with Billy May’s and Claude Thornhill’s orchestras in New York.
In 1949, Lorraine and Herb met at a Los Angeles jam session. They married in 1952. The Gellers were vital contributors to the West Coast jazz scene of the 1950s and played with the likes of Jimmy Giuffre, Bud Shank, and others live and in the studio.
Lorraine was diagnosed with asthma prior to giving birth to her daughter, Lisa. The birth took a toll on Lorraine’s health and shortly after she suffered pulmonary edema and an asthma attack, tragically passing away at the age of 30.
Lorraine only recorded one album as a leader entitled At the Piano, released a year following her untimely passing. It is a gem, a sampling of the soundscape of a burgeoning artist gone too soon.
The couple recorded together as well. They cut a record aptly titled The Gellers which I have been listening to obsessively for the past week or so. The tunes, a mixture of standards and originals, are catchy yet find ways to surprise and delight the listener. The music feels effortless, even on the burning opening number “Araphoe,” a contrafact over the Ray Noble classic “Cherokee” (first made famous as the theme for the Charlie Barnet band but then became a bebop anthem with the rise of Charlie Parker). I found myself taking particular interest in “I’ve Got A Feeling I’m Falling” for its driving swing and nuanced arrangement.
I look forward to further exploring the music of the Gellers and their affiliates. Their music has been a gateway for me to learning more about the West Coast jazz stylings, an area in which I would like to be better versed. What do you think about the Gellers’ music and story?