Born in Brussels, Michel Herr has led in parallel a rich career as a jazz pianist, composer and arranger.
As a pianist, Michel Herr has played with internationally renowned jazz soloists : Joe Henderson, Chet Baker, Archie Shepp, Bill Frisell, Joe Lovano, Charlie Mariano, Johnny Griffin, Slide Hampton, Art Farmer, Lee Konitz, John Abercrombie, Billy Hart, Philip Catherine, Daniel Humair, Aldo Romano, Palle Danielsson, Norma Winstone, Riccardo Del Fra, Richard Galliano, François Jeanneau, Paolo Fresu, etc., as well as the cream of the Belgian jazz scene, e. a. : Steve Houben, Fabrice Alleman, Bert Joris, Phil Abraham, etc... (more names below).
For almost 2 decades, he accompanied Toots Thielemans all over the world (Europe, USA, Japan, Africa). He was part of the quartet with Theo de Jong, then Michel Hatzigeorgiou on bass and Bruno Castellucci on drums and notably toured with Toots in the USA and Japan, among others with the bassists Rufus Reid, Ray Drummond or Riccardo Del Fra and the drummers Adam Nussbaum or Billy Hart.
A sought-after accompanist, he has also been a leader of various groups.
Early in his career, his group Solis Lacus, a jazz fusion band, makes a strong impression, followed by an acoustic trio.
With the German saxophonist Wolfgang Engstfeld, he then co-led an international quartet, then we find him leading numerous ensembles over the years : a trio (CD "Intuitions", Sax Prize), an international quintet (with Bert Joris, Wolfgang Engstfeld, Riccardo Del Fra and Dré Pallemaerts), a nonet, a tentette, etc... in which he presents his many compositions and arrangements.
The composer and arranger
Michel Herr is also an internationally renowned composer/arranger.
He was awarded the Monaco Jazz Composition Prize in 1988.
In terms of writing, his compositions and arrangements have earned him international recognition. They have been played, in addition to his own orchestras, by the most prestigious large European jazz bands (the WDR big bands, the NDR Big Band, the Brussels Jazz Orchestra, the Metropole Orchestra, ACT Big Band etc...) and by ensembles of all formats (chamber ensembles, strings, choirs, symphonic, etc...).
To his credit, he has several collaborations with the Brussels Jazz Orchestra, a.o. with David Linx and Tutu Puoane.
In May 2007, he recorded a double album with the Brussels Jazz Orchestra consisting of his big band compositions (released in February 2008 on the De Werf label, under the title "The Music of Michel Herr). An album hailed by critics as an essential milestone in his career as a composer/arranger.
He has written arrangements for multiple projects : Steve Houben + Strings, Saxo 1000, Ivan Paduart with the Metropole Orchestra (cd "Crush"), ACT Big Band, the Real Sax Section, Toots Thielemans, Daniel Romeo, etc...
He was asked in particular to write for projects associating jazz and classical musicians : "An American Songbook" (with the ORCW), Philip Catherine String Project (Echo Jazz Award, D), Thierry Lang "Colors of Time" (CH), Fabrice Alleman "Udiverse" (with chamber orchestra), etc...
In 2010, he receives the "Muse" of the Sabam.
2019 sees the release of the album "Positive'", with his compositions for jazz sextet and string quartet (Sabam Jazz Award).
Michel Herr's compositions have been recorded by Joe Lovano, Tom Harrell, Judy Niemack, Fred Hersch, Kenny Barron, Bill Frisell, Archie Shepp, etc...
Michel Herr has recorded about 100 albums, as a pianist or as a composer and arranger.
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Michel Herr has also written numerous musics for the media (film, radio, TV, ...).
He wrote the soundtrack of the movie "Just Friends" (several awards), on which he can be heard with Archie Shepp; and that of various TV movies.
To learn more, visit his website.
...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, Stéphane Guillaume, 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, Booby McFerrin, 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).