This album isn't entirely new to me, as pianist Roberto Magris was kind enough to share an advance copy more than a year ago, before the contract with Soul Note Records had been signed. On this auspicious occasion, Magris' Europlane quartet is accompanied by one of the world's outstanding alto saxophonists, American expatriate Herb Geller, who has lived in Hamburg, Germany, since 1965. To say that Geller, who was approaching his 75th birthday when the album was recorded in August, 2003, is playing as well as ever would be an imprudent understatement. The fact is, he is playing even better than ever, as one can hear throughout this bright and charming studio date.
Good as Geller is, however, he doesn't outshine Magris, bassist Rudi Engel, drummer Gabriele Centis, or (on four tracks) guitarist Darko Jurkovic, and that's saying a mouthful. Even though Geller was playing for the first time with Europlane, the group's cohesion and rapport is quite remarkable, due in large measure to Geller's superb artistry and Magris' unflagging leadership. Besides being an eloquent soloist, Magris is an attentive and tasteful accompanist, as are Engel and Centis. Geller, for his part, is simply awesome, blowing with zest and passion while revealing from time to time traces of his seminal influences, Benny Carter and Charlie Parker. He has a rich, creamy tone that is all his own, and a technique that is equal to any challenge.
The group bows to Carter with Benny's buoyant "Key Largo, to Bird with Magris' busy "Parker's Pen, to Billy Strayhorn with Geller's soulful "Stray Form. Magris also wrote "No Sadness and "Il Bello Del Jazz, Geller "Deception, Al Cohn "Ah-Moore. The four standards are relatively unfamiliar but no less pleasing because of it. They include "Some Other Spring (introduced in 1939 by Billie Holiday), Jerry Ross/Richard Adler's "A New Town Is a Blue Town (from The Pajama Game), Kurt Weill/Alan Jay Lerner's "Here I'll Stay (from Love Life) and Stephen Sondheim's "Pretty Woman (from Sweeney Todd).
Geller is brilliant on every one of them, and Europlane keeps pace whether underscoring his inspired adventures or playing a leading role. Those who may have wondered what ever happened to Herb Geller should be pleasantly surprised. Thanks to his prowess as a navigator, this Europlane really soars.
Track Listing: No Sadness; Stray Form; Some Other Spring; Key Largo; A New town Is A Blue Town; Here I
Personnel: Roberto Magris: piano; Herb Geller: alto saxophone; Darko Jurkovic: guitar; Rudi Engel: bass;
Gabriele Centis: drums.
Title: Il Bello Del Jazz
| Year Released: 2006
| Record Label: Soul Note