How we rate: our writers tend to review music they like within their preferred genres.
Grant Geissman returns to his straight-ahead roots with Say That!, which features searing originals embedded with tradition. The title track reflects the spirit of Wes Montgomery and the heyday of the organ combo. Geissman describes his idea for the album as "Wes Montgomery meets Horace Silver meets Jimmy Smith." You can't go wrong with that. Other originals reflect the smoother approach of contemporary jazz, as well as the hard bop roots that he inherited while growing up in the San Francisco Bay Area.
Geissman's television theme from Two and a Half Men gets the full five-minute treatment, with soprano saxophonist Brian Scanlon trading with the guitarist in a hearty romp. Similarly, "Wrong is Right" features a driving rhythmic foundation behind the guitarist's fiery attack. Here, Scanlon's tenor shares the spotlight in a searing portrayal of West Coast fluidity. Each phrase melts into the next as Geissman chases his muse seamlessly. "New York Stories," on the other hand, blends that memorable organ combo sound with delicious melodic threads from the leader's guitar. He takes it away with a comfortable groove that sits well with any audience. From coast to coast, he represents the core of straight-ahead jazz with a swinging, moving feel.
"Grandfather's Banjo" changes pace with a tribute to Geissman's grandfather. His classic jazz approach holds an appeal for generations young and old. Tierney Sutton sits in for "Bossa," which serves as a history lesson from the era that spawned collaborations between Stan Getz, Astrud Gilberto, and Tom Jobim. Her wordless vocals in unison with guitar and tenor provide a soothing rainshower of song.
"Below the Radar" and the closing number, "Wes is More," again bring hard bop reflections of legendary pioneers. Geissman forms his tribute pieces with respect for the art that they provided, while turning loose improvised creations of his own. He swings with a natural feel for what the guitar can do when unencumbered by outside demands. Alone with like-minded sidemen, he creates a recommended album that holds onto tradition while interpreting with fresh new ideas.
Track Listing: 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.
Personnel: Grant Geissman: Gibson ES-335 electric and Hernandis classical guitars, Beacon Silver Bell
banjo; Brian Scanlon: tenor and soprano saxophone, flute, clarinet; Trey Henry: acoustic
bass, tuba; Ray Brinker: drums; Emilio Palame: acoustic piano (1,7,9,10); Tom Ranier:
Hammond B3 organ (2,12), acoustic piano (3), Fender Rhodes electric piano (11); Jim Cox:
Hammond B3 organ (6,13), acoustic piano (4,8); Russell Ferrante: acoustic piano (5);
Dennis C. Brown: Martin 00-18 acoustic rhythm guitar (4); Tierney Sutton: wordless vocal
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