Grant Geissman

Cool Man Cool

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Grant Geissman really stepped up his game with the release of his previous CD Say That, and this excellent recording where his finely honed jazz sensibilities come fully to the forefront. There's nary a speck of commercial filler, as every track sports an authenticity and originality that belie the derivative music he had made a living on for years. This is a fine effort with little reason to spoil with wasted critique, as Geissman himself is on top of his game, and whether he's playing with his peer group or select all-stars, the music is at a high level from start to finish. While bop does prevail, contemporary and progressive neo-bop are heard without the predictable trappings, and Geissman changes up the band per track to keep things ever interesting in the best sense of the term. Most fans will gravitate toward the cuts featuring the all-stars, "Chuck Chick" in particular, as Geissman's classical acoustic guitar sidles along with Chick Corea's cascading piano in a lilting waltz with Spanish overtones, Chuck Mangione's credible jazz flugelhorn, Russell Ferrante's Fender Rhodes, and the soprano sax of Brian Scanlon. Mangione and Ferrante also show up during the slinky, under the surface tune "Tiki Time," while pianist Patrice Rushen, Mangione, and Scanlon on tenor sax all team up on the tasty, chunky funky number "Nawlins." Tom Scott plays tenor sax, guesting on the basic "Chicken Shack Jack" next to Geissman's chordal Wes Montgomery-type musings, while "Mad Skillz" is another fundamental tune, in this case a blues swinger. Guitar legend Jerry Hahn, clearly a big influence on Geissman, joins the band on "One for Jerry," a good groover with two plectrists and two keyboardists including organist Mike Finnigan. The shuffle swinger "Cool Blooz" is derived from "All Blues," features the renowned jazz and rock Hammond B-3 veteran, and sports a steelier guitar tone. Then there's the appearance of Van Dyke Parks, never really a jazz player but astute on the accordion for "Minnie Lights Out," an old-time oom-pah-pah tune punctuated by the tuba playing of Trey Henry. Despite the immense star power, it is Geissman and Scanlon who stand tall next to the well-known names. Geissman is notable for the comfortable flexibility he displays throughout, while Scanlon can hold his own with any post-Michael Brecker saxophonist, and proves it in every one of his nine appearances on the CD, even playing flute on the soulful title track. There's no slick or smooth material here, it all displays the epitome of California cool, and the selections have a thoughtful approach that reflect what Geissman has now evolved into. This album is clearly the best effort for the guitarist, and comes highly recommended for fans of Geissman's instrument, and all contemporary jazz listeners. ~ Michael G. Nastos, Rovi