Jazz CD Reviews

Grant Geissman, guitar – Say That! – Futurism Records

Retro-looking package, but not retro-sounding modern jazz guitarist

Published on July 14, 2006

Grant Geissman, guitar – Say That! – Futurism Records
Grant Geissman, guitar – Say That! – Futurism Records FR-1953 ****:

Geissman may be remembered by some as playing the burning guitar solo on Chuck Mangione’s big hit Feels So Good. Since then he’s been high on the smooth jazz charts with a number of albums, but had done any new material since 1998.  He’s making up for that with this 13-track collection of all originals. The versatile Geissman is also author of Foul Play!, a survey of the art and artists of E.C. Comics in the 1950s. The name of his record label is interesting in view of the artwork and design of the package being solidly retro. It’s a little cardboard fold-out decorated with the sort of stylized figures and designs that recall some of the Sauter-Finegan Band LPs put out by RCA.  In fact the package is designed to look like a shrunken double-LP album with one slot for the folded-up liner notes and the another for the 5-inch disc. There is also a reduction of the entire chart for the title tune, for budding guitarists. This disc is one of the black vinyl CDs such as also offered by First Impression Music.  It looks like one of those 78 rpm kiddie records, with fake record grooves on the label side and a completely smooth and shiny black surface on the playing side.

Oh yah, the music. It’s mostly a quintet situation with several guest performers. A few tracks feature some great Hammond B3 work, provided either by Tom Ranier or Jim Cox. Brian Scanlon is the reed man and Geissman plays both a Hernandis classical guitar and a Gibson ES-335 electric. Plus a banjo! Keyboardist Russell Ferrante of the Yellowjackets contributes acoustic piano on one tune. One of my favorite tracks was Bossa, in which guest thrush Tierney Sutton contributes a wonderful wordless local line. There’s one tune inspired by the guitarist’s interest in the comics: Spy Versus Spy, from Mad Magazine. The front cover illustration looks like one of those “bachelor pad” LPs of the 50s, and I was expecting Geissman’s music to be in that dated vein.  But it’s not – it’s sophisticated and tasteful modern jazz in sort of a Wes Montgomery style. And always melodic and swinging.The closing track is even a tribute to that pacemaker of modern jazz guitar, titled Wes Is More. Geissman reports that he was shooting overall for something like “Wes Montgomery meets Horace Silver meets Jimmy Smith.”  No wonder I dug this disc so much!

Tracks: Say That!, What’s the Story?, Point of View, Theme from Two and a Half Men, Yes or No?, New York Stories, Grandfather’s Banjo, Bossa, Wrong Is Right, Spy Versus Spy, Siete, Below the Radar, Wes Is More.

 - John Henry




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