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Born in Brussels, pianist and composer Michel Herr has been active on the European jazz scene since the seventies.
He had the opportunity to play with many great American musicians such as Joe
Lovano, Joe Henderson, Chet Baker, Archie Shepp, Charlie Mariano, Pepper Adams, Johnny Griffin, Slide
Hampton, Lee Konitz, Bill Frisell, Charlie Rouse, Art Farmer, Steve
Grossman, Judy Niemack, Lew Tabackin,
John Abercrombie, as well as many top European musicians, such as Palle Mikkelborg, Daniel Humair, J-F
Jenny-Clarke, Aldo Romano, Palle Danielsson, Arild Andersen, Norma Winstone, Richard Galliano,
Riccardo Del Fra, François Jeanneau..., and of course the cream of the Belgian
musicians : Philip Catherine, Steve Houben,
Bert Joris, Phil Abraham, Fabrice
Alleman, Richard Rousselet, ACT Big
He appeared in many festivals : Antibes, Northsea, Stockholm, Paris, Rome, Ivrea, Montréal, Amsterdam, Vienna, Jazz Middelheim in Antwerp, Estoril (Portugal),
Breckon, the Jazz Jamboree of Warsaw, Oslo, Audi Jazz (Belgium), Saint-Louis (Senegal) ...
Since 84 he regularly played piano and keyboards with harmonica player
Toots Thielemans. He was a member of the famous "Belgian quartet" with Michel Hatzigeporgiou (b) and Bruno Castellucci (drs). He performed with him throughout the world (Europe, USA, Japan, Africa),
played many major festivals and participated in many TV shows, records, film soundtracks, etc. He toured with him in the
US and in Japan, a.o. with bassists Rufus Reid, Ray Drummond or Riccardo Del
Fra and drummers Adam Nussbaum or Billy Hart.
He was associated with several projects od saxophonist Fabrice Alleman, a.o. the quartet that won the Nicolas Dor Prize at the '97 Liège Festival. In the Belgian jazz referendum organized by Belgian radios RTBF and VRT, their album "Loop the Loop" was elected Best Belgian CD of the year 1998.
The second album "Sides of Life" was widely acclaimed, too.
Other associations : with saxophonist Steve HOUBEN, Jean-Pierre Catoul / Peter Hertmans.
In 2000 and 2005, Michel Herr was the guest of honor of the Belgian "Django d'Or" evening.
In 2002, he played a.o. at the Ciney Jazz Night with his European Quintet in a tribute to Chet Baker, and also accompanied a "European Trumpet Summit" with Paolo Fresu, Flavio Boltro, Stéphane Belmondo, Eric Vloeimans, Gino Lattuca.
A sought after accompanist, Michel Herr has also always been the
leader of his own groups, in which he presents his own compositions.
- At the beginning of his career : Solis Lacus, an influential fusion band, and an acoustic trio.
- With German saxophonist Wolfgang Engstfeld he co-led an international
quartet that included US drummer Leroy Lowe and various bassists : Palle Danielsson, Isla Eckinger,
Riccardo Del Fra, Hein Van De Geyn.
- With Dutch bassist Hein Van De Geyn and American drummer Leroy Lowe he
recorded the CD : "Intuitions".
Sax Prize 1989 (Belgian Critics Award as Best Belgian jazz album of the year)
Rated "Five Spots" in the French jazz magazine Jazz Hot.
|Michel Herr led several bands (from the trio to the big band) |
- The Michel Herr European Quintet, with Bert Joris, Wolfgang
Engstfeld, Riccardo Del Fra And Dré Pallemaerts.
The quintet's first CD, "Notes Of
Life" (Igloo) received very enthusiatic reviews.
- Unexpected Encounters, a nine-piece ensemble combining his European Quintet with a string quartet.
- Life Lines, a nine piece band featuring his own compositions and arrangements, with top Belgian players : Steve Houben, Bert Joris or Gino Lattuca, Fabrice Alleman, Phil Abraham, Marcus Bartelt, Jacques Pirotton, Sal La Rocca or Sam Gerstmans and Bruno Castellucci or Dré Pallemaerts.
Achievements as a composer and arranger
From the early years of his career, Michel Herr wrote his own music, a.o. for his bands Solis Lacus, for his trio and for ensembles of various sizes, up to the big band.
In the late 70ies, he gets invited by Etienne Verschueren to write for and conduct the BRT Jazzorkest (Flemish radio big band).
Later, he was co-leader and musical director of ACT Big Band (CD "Extremes", featuring Joe Lovano & John Ruocco). He also has written for several soloists and European bands as well as for radio and TV.
In 1984, Toots Thielemans and a large orchestra conducted by Rogier Van Otterlo play his piece "Thinking of You", live in a festival in Antwerp.
In 1988 his composition "Labyrinthe" won the First Prize of the famous "Concours International de Composition de Thèmes de Jazz" of Monaco.
He was one of the composers/arrangers of the "Steve Houben + Strings" project, and of the "Saxo 1000" band, a 5 saxes band for which he wrote arrangements on music by René Thomas and Bobby Jaspar.
In 1993, he wrote the film soundtrack for the Belgian movie" Just Friends" (several awards), on which he can also be heard with Archie Shepp; and for various TV films, such as Didier Grousset's "Eclats de Famille" (French TV Canal+ / FR3), with Richard Galliano, "Les Monos / Le responsable" (FR2 / RTL TVI), "Le Coup du Lapin" (FR2) or "Un crime très populaire (FR2). More infos on his writing for media here.
His compositions have been recorded by Joe Lovano, Tom Harrell, Judy Niemack, Fred Hersch, Kenny Barron, Bill Frisell, Archie Shepp, etc...
On the occasion of the concert organized for Toots
Thielemans' 70th birthday in Brussels, he was one of the three composers/arrangers who conducted the big band.
The other two were... Quincy Jones and Peter Herbolzheimer.
His composition "Unexpected Encounters", commissioned
and recorded by the Belgian TV BRTN in 1995, features the Michel Herr European Quintet + a string quartet (this
band is now available for concerts).
His big band music has been played and recorded a.o. by WDR Big Band, NDR Big Band, HR Big Band (Germany), BRT Jazz Orchestra (B), the Brussels Jazz Orchestra (B), ACT Big Band (B), The Eurojazz Orchestra, The Big Band of the Slovenian Radio, etc...
Especially worth underlining are his important contributions to ACT Big Band (he was the musical director) and to the Brussels Jazz Orchestra in more recent years.
In 1998, ACT Big Band was elected Best Belgian Big Band of the year, both in the listeners poll (RTBF/VRT) and the critics poll (French speaking) and in the critics poll, Michel Herr entered the
Hall Of Fame for his career achievements, and was elected
Best Belgian composer and Best Belgian arranger.
For the Brussels Jazz Orchestra he seated a suite titled "Flagey, a New Era", in 2002, with Toots Thielemans as a soloist and with Michel conducting the band in person, and made several recordings, with David Linx a.o.
In February 2003, the WDR Big Band invites Michel to conduct and record almost two hours of his own compositions. A studio recording for the WDR radio is followed by a live radio recording of a very succesful concert given at the Stadtgarten, in Cologne (Germany).
In 2004, he writes and records an arrangement of "Between You and Me" for quintet and string quartet, for the album "Sides of Life" of saxophonist/composer Fabrice Alleman.
He also arranged for quartet and strings two pieces by Ivan Paduart played and recorded by the pianist, Richard Galliano on accordion and the "Ensemble Musiques Nouvelles" for the album "Douces Illusions" (2004).
His writing for a nonet formed for Jean-Pierre Gebler's album "Meggie" led him to create his own nine-piece band, "Michel Herr & Life Lines", in which some of the top Belgian players play his compositions and arrangements.
In 2007, he writes and records a suite for the album "Changing faces" of singer David Linx with the Brussels Jazz Orchestra.
He also writes an arrangement on Ivan Paduart's "Waterfalls" for the Dutch singer Fay Claassen and the famous Dutch 'Metropole Orchestra", a large orchestra (big band + strings + woodwinds, etc...) which for decades has invited the top arrangers of the world.
In May 2007, he records a double album of his big band compositions with the Brussels Jazz Orchestra, released in 2008 under the title "The music of Michel Herr". An acclaimed album, which can be considered as an essential milestone in his career as a composer/arranger.
In 2008, he records with his tentet "Life Lines" a new piece for a CD commissioned by the Belgian Olympic Committee, on which he also arranged a song for singer David Linx and the Brussels Jazz Orchestra.
In 2009, he is the musical director and arranger for the tribute cd to Paolo Radoni, Radoni's Tribe "Let me hear a simple song" (Octave de la Musique Prize)
He also writes several arrangements on the music of Ivan Paduart for the Metropole Orchestra (NL), a unique ensemble of 55 musicians, conducted by Jim McNeely, featuring Fay Claassen (voc., NL) and Bob Malach (ts, USA) (CD "Crush", 2010)
In 2010, he arranges and composes for the Fabrice Alleman Quartet + Chamber orchestra (25 musicians).
In 2011, he writes a composition for the Brussels Jazz Orchestra and its "Graphicology "project (2011)
En 2012, he writes string quartet arrangements for Fabrice Alleman's Carte blanche at the Gaume Jazz Festival (B).
Bert Joris (tp), Nathalie Loriers (p), Philippe Aerts (b) and Bruno Castellucci record his composition "The ballad of Maggie and Jacques".
He writes "Colors of time", 13 arrangements on music by Thierry Lang (CH), lyrics by David Linx, for 5 jazzmen, choir and strings (2012), created in Fribourg (Switzerland) in May 2012 by David Linx (voc), Matthieu Michel (tp), André Ceccarelli (drs), Heiri Kaenzig (b), the Accroche-Choeur and the Orchestre de Chambre Fribourgeois conducted by Jean-Claude Fasel. CD released in 2013.
In 2013, he writes big band charts for trombonist Phil Abraham, string arrangements for Steve Houben, Sam Vloemans and the Walter Boeykens Ensemble, orchestra arrangements for saxophonist Fabrice Alleman and the Hanoi Philharmonic, etc…
In 2014, he writes arrangements for the project "An American songbook", with Steve Houben (sax), Julie Mossay (classical soprano), the Nathalie Loriers trio and the Orchestre Royal de Chambre de Wallonie (strings).
On the occasion of the Adolphe Sax year, he writes a series of arrangements for 5 saxes and trio, for "Steve Houben & the Real Sax Section".
He also arranges a new version of "Colors of Time" (Thierry Lang/David Linx), for 5 jazzmen and chamber orchestra (strings, woodwinds and horns).
In 2015, he wrote some arrangements for guitarist Philip Catherine and the strings of the Orchestre Royal de Chambre de Wallonie (conducted by Frank Braley), for a live recording "Philip Catherine the String Project" (ACT, Jazz Echo Award).
In 2016, he conducts the Bravo Big Band in a program of his compositions, arranges "Homilia" for bandoneon player Manu Comté, writes for saxophonist Fabrice Alleman,...
In 2017 : Arranger (& composer) for the project and CD "Fabrice Alleman & Chamber Orchestra : UDiverse" (Cyprès Records). String arrangements for Daniel Romeo and his album "The black days sessions".
* * *
Michel Herr also wrote music for media (film, radio, tv, ...). Read more on his personal web site.* * *
Michel Herr appears on more than 80 LPs or CDs, as a leader or with Joe Lovano, Toots Thielemans, Bill Frisell, Archie Shepp, Philip Catherine, Tom Harrell etc...
In October 2010, Michel Herr received the "Muse" of Sabam.
...the sensitive, harmonically inventive pianist Michel Herr, who played his own award-winning composition "Labyrinthe". (Leonard Feather, L.A. Times)
"...when the instrument sings to such an extent, it is pointless to regret the absence of a horn player...." (François Lacharme, Jazz Hot "Five Spots")
"A Musician before all, Michel Herr expresses himself as much through his writing than through his piano playing. Michel mainly develops his own langage, creating lyrical music of great harmonic richness, with a remarkable dramatic sense." (Pierre de Chocqueuse, Jazz Hot "Five Spots")
"Michel Herr unfolds a universe that is his own. A universe rich in poetry, in which sensitivity, creativity and swing blend very well. A perfect example of European jazz in full maturity." (Le Soir, Belgium)
"Belgian pianist Michel Herr signs here an excellent album. His phrasing has great clarity; it is well articulated while remaining very fluid. Herr also reaffirms himself as a talented composer." (Paul Benkimoun, Jazz Magazine)
"Refined and poetic playing. Michel Herr is the creator of various moods : oniric, exciting, nostalgic, with moments of fantasy. Michel Herr's playing is based upon an elegant lyricism, which expresses himself in delicately sculpted phrases that never become sweet. The trio, very convincing, shows a real interaction between the three instruments." (André Joly, La Voix du Nord)
"A trio that sounds just like one man, a ludic microcosm that injects strong emotions into everything it touches. No excuses to ignore any longer this master in complicity." (Xavier Prévost, Claviers)
"Sumptuous !...With this trio, his trio, Michel Herr unfolds his universe and his compositions. Both are worth the detour. An elegant touch, beauty of the melodies and a perfect understanding between the three musicians. Intuitions is a "grand cru." (Philippe Adler, Backstage)
Some of the musicians Michel Herr has played with
Trumpet : Chet Baker, Tom Harrell, Art Farmer, Benny Bailey, Randy Brecker, Howard McGhee, Lew Soloff, Marvin "Hannibal" Peterson, Charles Tolliver, Dizzy Gillespie, Jon Eardley, Dusko Gojkovick, Claudio Roditi, Palle Mikkelborg, Eric Le Lann, Uli Beckerhoff, Manfred Schoof, Ack Van Rooyen, Gustavo Bergalli, Eric Vloeimans, Paolo Fresu, Stéphane Belmondo, Flavio Boltro, Bert Joris, Richard Rousselet, Gino Lattuca...
Sax : Joe Henderson, Archie Shepp, Joe Lovano, Charlie Mariano, Pepper Adams, Johnny Griffin, Sal Nistico, Lee Konitz, Lew Tabackin, Charlie Rouse, Steve Grossman, Charles Mcpherson, J-R Monterose, Nathan Davis, Pete Yellin, Hal Singer, Robin Kenyatta, Bobby Jones, Lou Mcconnell, John Ruocco, Wolfgang Engstfeld, Tony Coe, François Jeanneau, Stan Sulzman, Gijs Hendriks, Sylvain Beuf, Ferdinand Povel, Bernt Rosengren, Olivier Peters, Paul Heller, Jacques Pelzer, Etienne Verschueren, Steve Houben, Erwin Vann, Fabrice Alleman, Kurt Van Herck, Ben Sluijs, Peter & Johan Vandendriessche, Pierre Vaiana...
Bass : Wilbur Little, Rufus Reid, Ray Drummond, John Lee, Curtis Lundy, Tony Dumas, Scott Colley, Mike Formanek, Kermit Driscoll, Santi Di Briano, Bert Thompson, Jeff Berlin, J-F Jenny Clarke, Palle Danielsson, Hein Van De Geyn, Riccardo Del Fra, Arild Andersen, Jesper Lundgard, Isla Eckinger, Michel Benita, Bo Stief, Chris Laurence, Hans Hartmann, Detlev Beier, Gunther Lenz, Frans Van Der Hoeven, Rob Langereis, Henk Haverhoek, Jos Machtel, Theo De Jong, Jean Warland, Michel Hatzigeorgiou, Jean-Louis Rassinfosse, Philippe Aerts, Freddie Deronde, Nicolas Thys, Bas Cooymans, Benoît Vanderstraeten, Sal La Rocca...
Drums : Billy Hart, Adam Nussbaum, Kenny Washington, Art Taylor, Billy Brooks, Oliver Johnson, Beaver Harris, Gerry Brown, Bobby Durham, Ralph Penland, Martin Drew, Leroy Lowe, Vinnie Johnson, John Betch, Al Levitt, Dennis Mackrell, Daniel Humair, Aldo Romano, Janusz Stefanski, Klaus Weiss, Makaya N'tshoko, Roberto Gatto, Alex Riel, John Marshall, Simon Goubert, Joël Allouche, Peter Gritz, Charles Bellonzi, Jukkis Uotila, John Engels, Hans Van Oosterhout, Dré Pallemaerts, Bruno Castellucci, Félix Simtaine, Jan De Haas, Mimi Verderame, Frédéric Jacquemin, André Charlier, Stéphane Galland, Lieven Venken...
Guitar : Joe Pass, John Abercrombie, Bill Frisell, Toots Thielemans, Joe Diorio, John Thomas, Jimmy Gourley, Phil Upchurch, Eef Alberts, Peter Tiehuis, Stefan Diez, René Thomas, Philip Catherine, Wim Overgauw, Toto Blanke, Serge Lazarevitch, Peter Hertmans, Paolo Loveri, Jeanfrançois Prins, Jacques Pirotton, Pierre Van Dormael, Paolo Radoni...
Trombone : Slide Hampton, Kai Winding, Jiggs Whigham, Eje Thelin, Garrett List, Bart Van Lier, Ed Kröger, Erich Kleinschuster, Phil Abraham, Marc Godfroid...
Vocals : Joe Lee Wilson, Judy Niemack, Norma Winstone, Deborah Brown, Denise Jannah, Dee Daniels, Rachel Gould, Stella Levitt, Jeffery Smith, Sachal Vasandani, Silvia Droste, Sara Lazarus, Anne Ducros, David Linx, Maurane, Claude Lombard, Monica Linges, Marito Correa, Yvonne Walter, The Swingle Singers, Sacha Distel, Nicole Croisille...
And (Miscellaneous) ... : Tony Scott, Richard Galliano, Marcel Azzola, Zbigniew Seifert, Didier Lockwood, Jean-Pierre Catoul, Alexandre Cavaliere, Toots Thielemans, Peter Guidi, Ali Ryerson, Chris Hinze, Rogier Van Otterlo, Quincy Jones, Jack Van Poll, Association P.C., Dave Pike, Dany Doriz, Guy Cabay, Sadi, Bosko Petrovic, Tom Van Der Geld, Marc Moulin & Placebo, Frédéric Devreese, Georges Octors, Georges-Elie Octors, Jacques Bekaert & Transition, Vladimir Cosma, Neppie Noya, Chris Joris etc...
(See top of page for main discography)
AS A LEADER OR CO-LEADER :
|SOLIS LACUS||-||1974 (LP, EMI/IBC, reissued on LP B. Sharp 1001 & CD : CDS 082)|
|Michel HERR / Wolfgang ENGSTFELD ||"Perspective"||1978 (LP, B. Sharp 1003, reissued on CD : CDS 082)|
|Michel HERR/Bill FRISELL/Kermit DRISCOLL/Vinnie JOHNSON ||"Good Buddies" ||1979 (LP, EMI 064 63568)|
|ENGSTFELD/HERR/DANIELSSON/LOWE||"Continuous Flow"||1980 (LP, Mood 28614)|
|ENGSTFELD/HERR QUARTET||"Short Stories"||1983 (LP, Nabel NBL 8309)
AS A SIDEMAN :
|Jacques BEKAERT||- ||1974 (Igloo Igl 008)|
|JAZZTRACK||"First Call"||1975 (LP, Happy Bird/Bellaphon 5015)|
|JAZZTRACK||"Wake Up" ||1975 (CD reissue of "First Call" -see above- Pastels CD 20.1614)|
|Lou MacCONNELL||"Reaching for it"||1977 (LP, MD 044) (with Wilbur LITTLE and Vinnie JOHNSON)|
|Stéphane HOUBEN||- ||1978 (LP, MD 012) (with Chet BAKER)|
|Steve HOUBEN Mauve Traffic||"Oh Boy !"||1979 (LP, MD 035)|
|Gijs HENDRIKS Quartet ||"Dom Rocket"||1979 (LP, Timeless SJP 131)|
|Jan DOVEREN ||"Point of Departure"||1979 (LP, MD 0046)|
|SAXO 1000 ||"Remembering Bobby JASPAR and René THOMAS"||1980 (LP, MD 0060)|
|ACT BIG BAND||- ||1981 (LP, LDH 1002)|
|Jean Pierre GEBLER ||and Friends||1983 (LP, LDH 1006) (with Jacques PELZER, Al and Stella LEVITT)|
|John RUOCCO ||"Soon Spring" ||1983 (LP, LDH 1008)|
|Toots THIELEMANS ||"Une Femme ou deux" (original soundtrack of the Claude Zidi movie) ||(LP Apache 2407871)|
|Bert JORIS ||"Sweet Seventina"||1985 (LP, Jazz Cats 6985 012)|
|Guy CABAY ||"Balzin' reyes" ||1986 (LP, AA Music AALP 3600)|
|Joe LOVANO/Bert JORIS/Michel HERR/Hein VAN DE GEYN/Dré PALLEMAERTS : ||"Solid Steps"||1986 (LP/CD Jazz Club JC 6011, now reissued as September 05124)|
|50 YEARS OF BELGIAN JAZZ||- ||(CD, Compilation, Tauro T8811 CD)(1 unreleased track of 1982, quartet with Wolfgang ENGSTFELD, etc).|
|Luc MOLINS ||"Poles"||1989 (CD, Pylone PY 90001 CD) (with Riccardo DEL FRA, Peter GRITZ)|
|Denise JANNAH ||"Take it from the top"||1991 (CD, Timeless CD SJP 308) (with Riccardo DEL FRA, etc)|
|Peter GUIDI ||"A Weaver of Dreams" Peter GUIDI meets Michel Herr & Riccardo DEL FRA||1993 (CD, Timeless CD SJP 401)|
|Vladimir COSMA|| "L'affaire", original soundtrack of Sergio Gobbi's movie ||1994 (CD Pomme 950962) with Toots THIELEMANS, Michel BENITA, Aldo ROMANO.|
|Thierry LANG featuring David LINX|| "Colors of Time", arranged by Michel HERR||2013 (CD Musiques suisses) with Matthieu MICHEL, Heiri KAENZIG & André CECCARELLI, choir and strings.|
|Zbigniew SEIFERT Variospheres ||"Live in Solothurn" ||1976, released in 2017. With Hans HARTMANN (b, CH) and Janusz STEFANSKI (drs, PL).