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Herb Geller: At the Movies

When a record producer thinks in terms of doing a medley of Hollywood songs, he often chooses songs like “Laura,” “Emily,” “Invitation” and “The Bad and the Beautiful.” Well, they’re dutifully included here for Herb Geller, who plays alto and soprano sax for this combo session, recorded in Holland last spring. But thanks to Geller, who has a reputation for being a big movie fan, some more obscure themes have found their way into the recording, including the earliest song, “Troubled Water,” written for Mae West in the 1934 film Troubled Water. Better known, but still neglected: Altoist Geller and guitarist Martien Oster can be heard in unison on Johnny Mandel’s “Close Enough for Love,” from the 1979 film Agatha. The most swinging track in the set comes from The Wizard of Oz, “Ding Dong the Witch Is Dead.” Geller takes it at a bright tempo. Pianist Don Friedman contributes an excellent solo and Geller’s alto sounds more hard-edged than usual, perhaps because there is more of a bop flavor being dispersed. The addition of acoustic guitarist Oster lends a new perspective to Quincy Jones’ theme from “The Pawnbroker,” while “Call Me Irresponsible” is rendered by an alto-bass duo: Geller and Martin Wind put the tune through many clever modulations, one an abrupt, downward key change so unexpected it tends to create a sinking feeling. Mandel’s “Emily” offers another surprise: Friedman sneaks in “It Might as Well Be Spring” at a rather awkward place in the release. It takes some getting used to. Predictably, “Invitation” and “Laura” prove to be reliable swingers. Wind scores high with his solo as well as his precise unison with Geller. At the Movies is nothing earth-shaking, but at least you can bring your popcorn over to the CD player for a change.

Originally Published