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Bop | Label: Tramp Records – TRCD-9024
This record kicks from the very beginning, in a way you would’t expect when looking at the cover: A white man in a brightly glittered suit and hat holding his alto sax. A posture somewhere between a down-and-out tv series cop and James Last. If you open the fold out cover the misleading signals continue: A b/w picture of an intellectual (the same man) and his flute; this might fit really well for Rachmaninoff!
Such subterfuge belongs to those that do precision work. Tramp Records, situated a few miles north of Munich in the approach path of its airport, carries out such precision. Tobias Kirmayer is a record digger re-releasing rough and raw Funk and Soul singles from the smallest and now defunct labels on vinyl. Some recordings from the 1960’s often have more soul (in literal meaning) than nearly everything recorded within the past 30 years.
But now let’s return to the enigma from 1975: The man on the sleeve is Herb Geller, an American responsible for all compositions, lyrics and up to six reed instruments. Further musicians hail from Germany, Belgium, Sweden and Denmark, including such jazz and fusion greats as Wolfgang Schlueter, Palle Mikkelborg and Philip Catherine. And man! This record really sounds fantastic!
An American in Hamburg – The View from Here really is a special recording. The last release of the album (called Rhyme and Reason in the US, and without instrumental versions) goes back some 29 years, making it a quite sought-after collectable. A CD release doesn’t exist. One can hear two absolutely soulful singers that rarely appeared in such jazz fusion contexts. These are Earl Jordan from the Les Humphries Singers and Mark Murphy, one of the greatest American jazz singers, recording under his own name since 1954. His combination of beat poetry and jazz on Bop for Kerouac is still highly acclaimed – one of his last works was with German mainstream trumpet star Till Brönner.
Similar to Mark Murphy, Herb Geller worked with nearly all jazz greats one can imagine. After a tour through Brazil with Benny Goodman, Geller didn’t return to the US but rather moved to Berlin in 1962 and later Hamburg. He worked for SFB (Radio Free Berlin) and NDR (North German Radio) and played with the two most distinctive European Big Bands of that time – the Kenny Clarke/Francy Boland Big Band and Peter Herbolzheimer’s Rhythm Combination & Brass. In January 1975 Geller recorded the first album under his own name since 1959.
And, this outing kicks in different ways: There are (subtle) political vocals that may lead one to think about the real reasons for his not returning to the US – the official version was due to the death of his first wife. You’ve got really crazy solos on synths and saxes, and Philip Catherine is playing some really tight guitars, snapping akin to bass and drums. This is collectively framed by complex, but not too piled-on, horn arrangements (though Herb Geller does overdub himself with six audio tracks).
This release by Tramp Records comes with the original liner notes of the first pressing, including a surprisingly honest Herb Geller interview.
Martin Buerkl (Basement Jazz Radio Show, Munich)
1. Rhyme And Reason Time (Our Birthday Party) (Vocal) – 7:15
2. Sudden Senility (Vocal) – 11:48
3. The Power Of A Smile (Vocal) – 9:50
4. Space A La Mode (Vocal) – 8:50
5. Title Wave – 9:00
6. Sudden Senility (Instrumental) – 9:50
7. Rhyme And Reason Time (Instrumental) – 4:23
8. The Power Of A Smile (Instrumental) – 6:00
9. Space A La Mode (Instrumental) – 8:18
Alto Saxophone, Tenor Saxophone, Soprano Saxophone, Flute [Alto & Bass Flute] – Herb Geller
Bass – Hans-Lucas Lindholm
Drums – Alex Riel
Electric Piano, Synthesizer [Arp Synthesizer] – Rob Franken
Guitar – Philip Catherine
Synthesizer [Moog Synthesizer, String Organ] – Gottfried Böttger
Trumpet – Palle Mikkelborg
Vibraphone, Percussion – Wolfgang Schlüter
Vocals – Earl Jordan (track 1), Mark Murphy (tracks 2 – 4)