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There are throwbacks, and then there are throwbacks. Guitarist Grant Geissman takes us back to the era of coola visual image of nightclubs patronized by people wearing long shirts, dark glasses and berets.
Geissman may be best known for his solo on "Feels So Good," the pioneering smooth jazz song that brought Chuck Mangione's flugelhorn into the mainstream. In addition to a successful solo career, Geissman has been active in film and television, co-writing the underscore to the series Two and a Half Men as well as contributing to numerous other projects. On Cool Man Cool, Geissman is supported by saxophonist Brian Scanlon, bassist Trey Henry, drummer Ray Brinker and an all-star lineup of cool musicians Geissman has worked with, including Mangione, Tom Scott and Patrice Rushen.
The title song says it all; with finger snaps, Brian Kilgore's bongos and Brian Scanlon's flute, "Cool Man Cool" captures the essence of those beatnik days. Geissman's electric guitar lead is in a groove. After solos by Scanlon and pianist Emilio Palame, Geissman and Scanlon pair up for some engaging, high-speed riffs that build in intensity until the song settles back into the main melody.
Mangione joins Geissman for "Chuck and Chick." This piece is an all-in jam with Chick Corea on piano, the Yellowjackets' Russell Ferrante on Fender Rhodes electric piano, and Alex Acuna joining Kilgore on percussion. Geissman plays classical and steel string acoustic guitars, and Mangione leads early on what at first appears to be an easygoing piece. Scanlon then comes in on soprano saxophone, Mangione's middle solo sets up Corea and the pace takes on the feel of a stroll through a Mexican marketplace. Throughout, Henry and Brinker are subtle yet effective.
"Minnie Lights Out" goes back even further than the 1950s-'60s cool scene. With Henry switching to tuba, and Brinker shedding the drums for pie pans, this playful piece ponders what would happen if Minnie Mouse walked out on Mickey. Van Dyke Parks adds the accordion, and Charlie Bisharat brings a wailing violin while Geissman plays acoustic guitar, as does guest Dennis C. Brown. Guitar and violin then enjoy a sassy call-and-response late in the piece.
Although the entire set is built around the idea of cool, no two pieces are alike. Elements of several styles, including blues and bop, are mixed in here and there. Geissman wrote and arranged all 14 tracks.
Track Listing: Cool Man Cool; Chicken Shack Jack; Too Cool for School; Even It; One for Jerry; Minnie Lights Out; Tiki Time; Nawlins; Crazy Talk; Ya Think?; Mad Skillz; Cool Blooz.
Personnel: Grant Geissman: electric guitar (1-3, 5-7, 9, 11-14), finger snaps (1), classical guitar (4), acoustic guitar (4, 8, 10), 12-string guitar (4); Brian Scanlon: flute (1), tenor saxophone (3, 5, 10-12), soprano saxophone (4, 9), alto saxophone (6); Emilio Palame: acoustic piano (1, 8), Hammond B-3 organ (10), Fender Rhodes electric piano (14); Trey Henry: acoustic bass (1-7, 9-14), tuba (8); Ray Brinker: drums (1-7, 9-14), finger snaps (1), pie pan (8); Brian Kilgore: bongos (1), percussion (7, 9-11, 14); Paul Stilwell: finger snaps (1); Tom Scott: tenor saxophone (2, 13); Jim Cox: Hammond B-3 organ (2, 3, 12, 13), acoustic piano (2); Chuck Mangione: flugelhorn (4, 9, 10); Chick Corea: acoustic piano (4); Russell Ferrante: Fender Rhodes electric piano (4, 9), acoustic piano (5); Alex Acuna: percussion (4, 7, 9, 10, 11, 14); Tom Ranier: acoustic piano (6, 7, 12); Jerry Hahn: electric guitar (7); Mike Finnigan: Hammond B-3 organ (7, 14); Van Dyke Parks: accordion (8); Charlie Bisharat: violin (8); Dennis C. Brown: acoustic rhythm guitar (8), electric guitar (14), Dobro (14); Patrice Rushen: acoustic piano (10); Chuck Lorre: electric guitar (14).
Years ago now--in Rhodesia--listening to Voice of America with Willis Conover I heard Bunk Johnson play When The Saints Go Marching In, and Billie Holiday sing Don't Explain. I knew then there was no other life for me than jazz.