Cool Man Cool

Home | Contact | Search | Site Map

 

Grant Geissman
Cool Man Cool

Grant Geissman, Guitars
Brian Scanlon, Reeds
Trey Henry, Bass
Ray Brinker, Drums
Guest artists include Chuck Mangione, Flugelhorn

  • Cool Man Cool

  • Chicken Shack Jack - with Tom Scott

  • Too Cool For School

  • Chuck And Chick * - with Chuck Mangione and Chick Corea

  • Even If... - with Russell Ferrante

  • Dig Some Sides?

  • One For Jerry - with Jerry Hahn and Mike Finnigan

  • Minnie Lights Out - with Van Dyke Parks and Charlie Bisharat

  • Tiki Time * - with Chuck Mangione and Russell Ferrante

  • Nawlins * - with Patrice Rushen and Chuck Mangione

  • Crazy Talk - with Russell Ferrante

  • Ya Think?

  • Mad Skillz - with Tom Scott

  • Cool Blooz - with Chuck Lorre, Dennis C. Brown, and Mike Finnigan

* Chuck Mangione only appears on these tracks

Open All Nite / Futurism Records B001VLFDYA
2009


Liner Notes

After a long flirtation with smooth jazz, guitarist Grant Geissman went back to his jazzy roots and came up with the most personally satisfying statement of his career in 2006's Say That!, his paean to the golden era of Blue Note - Riverside - Verve with obvious nods to the likes of Wes Montgomery, Kenny Burrell, Horace Silver and Jimmy Smith. For his follow-up, Geissman reveals a wildly eclectic streak on Cool Man Cool. From scorching bebop to Latin jazz romp, from poignant ballad to jaunty Hot Club of France tribute, with touches of calypso, second line grooves, shuffle blues, greasy organ-fueled funk and '50s-styled exotica along the way, Cool Man Cool showcases a wide range of Grant's musical interests.

"The original idea was to try and write in different jazz or jazzy styles that I thought were cool," says Geissman. "Hence the title. Then as the project developed it also became about inviting some old friends of mine that I've always thought were cool to come play. So that became the dual concept of the project - cool music I like to play, cool people I like to play with."

To that end, Grant invited a whole host of stellar guests, including Chick Corea, Chuck Mangione, Tom Scott, Russell Ferrante, Patrice Rushen, Jerry Hahn, Mike Finnigan and Van Dyke Parks, to help him realize his own eclectic vision. Along with a core group of bassist Trey Henry, drummer Ray Brinker and saxophonist Brian Scanlon, all returning from the Say That! sessions, Geissman has fashioned a project that radically shifts stylistic gears from track to track. "I think I must have musical ADD" he laughs, "because I can't stay on the same vibe too long, certainly not across a whole record. I either don't have the attention span or the way I like to play encompasses more than just one genre at any time. I like the idea that just when someone thinks they have a handle on what the music - or my playing - is about, they hear the next track and go, 'Oh!' But I think it somehow hangs together."

Geissman and his regular working crew open with the aptly-named title track, a cool minor blues underscored by Henry's big-toned walking basslines, Brinker's subtle brushwork, Brian Kilgore's bongos and augmented by cool finger snaps. The whole sophisto-hip vibe is very evocative of Oliver Nelson's "Stolen Moments," and Grant takes his time on his trusty warm-toned Gibson ES-335 guitar solo. Scanlon follows with a nimble flute solo before Emilio Palame enters with a potent piano statement of his own. After the solos, the three then join for a soil section / shout chorus with challenging unisons that bristle with bopish intensity.

Tom Scott makes his first appearance on the urgently funky "Chicken Shack Jack," a greasy throw-down under-scored by Jim Cox's Hammond B-3 cushion and gospel- soaked piano and punched up by Brinker's slamming backbeat. Geissman employs some Wes-like octaves bluesy string-bending statements on this catchy number while Scott digs in on tenor sax with robust, big-toned authority. There's an air of vintage '70s Stuff on this earthy, goodtime offering. Says Grant of his long-standing association with Scott: "Some of his early records like Rural Still Life on Impulse! and that first L.A. Express album with Larry Carlton were part of the reason I wanted to move down to Los Angeles from the Bay Area. These guys were playing like that just 325 miles away, and I had to get down there! And then over the years I've gotten to play with Tom in quite a few different situations, including some live gigs with Victor Feldman's Generation Band.

"Certainly for 'Chicken Shack Jack' the first guy I thought of was Tom Scott," Grant continues. "He just eats that stuff up. And both the tunes that he plays on here were first takes, which shows you the kind of player Tom really is."

The core group, with Cox on organ again, comes out of the sate smoking on "Too Cool for School," an up-tempo swinger that has Geissman and tenor man ScanIon blowing tight harmony lines upfront while Henry grooves the chromatic walking line on upright bass. Grant's fleet-fingered solo here is fluid and bluesy, in the vein of Kenny Burrell (and with perhaps a dash of another Grant - Grant Green), while Scanlon's bold attack recalls Stanley Turrentine's earthy encounters during his early '60s Blue Note sessions with organists Shirley Scott and Jimmy Smith.

"Chuck and Chick" was written by Geissman for his former employer Mangione (Grant's solo on 1977's mega-selling single " Feels So Good" has immortalized him in guitar circles) and for renowned composer-pianist Chick Corea. As it turns out, this is a reunion of sorts for Chuck and Chick, who played together in Mangione's Rochester-based quintet back in 1965. Geissman plays his Hernandez nylon string classical guitar, his Martin steel string acoustic and a Guild 12-string acoustic on this lively, lyrical Latin flavored waltz number, which bears a slight resemblance to Corea's classic "La Fiesta." "What I wanted to do was write a piece where the front part felt like something Chuck might write and the second part felt like something Chick might write' says Grant. "From working with Chuck over the years I really understand the kind of melodies that he likes to play-beautiful melodies that arc out over a longer period of time. Earlier in the year they asked if I could come sub with his band for a one-nighter in Orlando, Florida because his regular guy, Coleman Mellett, couldn't make it. So I went and played, and it was just so great to see Chuck and play with him again. And I knew I was going to be doing this record so I asked if he would come play, and he said okay! I later asked if Chick would play on it, and I'm absolutely thrilled to have them both on this track."

As for the Mangione-Corea connection, Grant explains that it was actually the realization of something that had been talked about 30 years ago. "About the time that 'Feels So Good' was popping on the radio, Chick's My Spanish Heart was getting ready to come out. I remember that Chuck told me he was going over to Chick's house to hang out with him and hear that album. And there was some discussion around that time of those two guys doing a whole project together, which never happened, probably because they were on different record labels or whatever. But that stuck in my head and I've always wondered, 'Man, what would that have sounded like?' So 'Chuck and Chick' is my attempt to explore what that might've sounded like if that had actually happened."

Another Mangione-related connection on this album is mixing engineer Mick Guzauski, who recorded and mixed most of Mangione's early albums, including Feels So Good. "Mick was a very important ingredient in the sound of those albums, and it was so fun to work with him again on this project," said Grant. "Mick is brilliant, and also completely out of his mind!"

Yellowjackets co-founder Russell Ferrante, who played piano on "Yes or No?" from Say That!, appears on the gentle ballad "Even if," which also features some beautiful chordal melody playing by Geissman on his trusty ES-335. Grant explains that his musical relationship with Ferrante goes back to the early '70s. "Russ and I go back to the Bay Area. We were playing in a couple little combos there before either of us moved down to Los Angeles. And so it's been really nice to reconnect with him musically. He's such a beautiful player. He's extremely soulful and a really wonderful person. I think he's underrated in a way... beautiful touch on the piano, incredible voicings underneath what you're playing. It's just so great to play with him, on every level."

Says Ferrante, "When I first started playing I met Grant up in the Bay Area. He was really far along as a musician and I was just starting out. From the moment I first heard him he was already a very accomplished musician. We played together in a community college big band in Cupertino, California, and then we played in a few small group gigs in the San Jose area. Years later we got musically re-acquainted by working together in the studio with a singer and lyricist named Lorraine Feather (2004's Such Sweet Thunder: Music of the Duke Ellington Orchestra and 2005's Dooji Wooji). So we sort of rekindled our musical association on those sessions, then he invited me to play on that previous record of his (Say That!). And now we're playing together again on this new one, which was great fun. Grant is like the consummate musician. He never screws up, his time is so solid, his touch and sound and his approach to playing is so perfect. Maybe some of that comes from his many years of playing in the studios under the gun and having to play it right every time. But that's kind of a remarkable aspect of his musicianship. And to be let loose to do his own record and express himself in various ways must be very gratifying for him."

"Dig Some Sides?" is an all-out chops-buster along the lines of Charlie Parker's "Donna Lee" or Johnny Smith's "Jaguar." Grant really digs in on this boppish anthem and delivers with verve on this super up-tempo vehicle. Scanlon also kills here on alto sax, and Ranier provides an equally burning piano solo and harmonically empathetic comping.

"One For Jerry" is Geissman's ode to his one-time guitar teacher, Jerry Hahn. "Having Jerry there for that track was one of the most magical times in the studio I've ever had," says Geissman. "When we went in to hear the playback of the final take there was this amazing moment when Jerry and I first start trading fours where I lost track of who was who. I couldn't tell where Jerry left off and I picked up. It was really wild to have my head turn around like that."

Geissman began studying with Hahn when he was a senior in high school and continued through his freshman year in college. "I had gotten his album The Jerry Hahn Brotherhood, which came out on Columbia in 1970," Grant recalls. "It was Jerry's band with Mike Finnigan on vocals and B-3 organ, Clyde Greaves on bass and George Marsh on drums. It was an incredible album, an interesting collection of quirky pop tunes infused with a jazz sensibility. Shortly after that album came out, my mom saw in the classified ads that Jerry was giving guitar lessons up in Marin County. So we called him, hooked it up and began a kind of ritual where every Saturday I would drive from San Jose across the Golden Gate Bridge up into Marin County to take a lesson with him."

Hahn adds, "Grant was really the best student I ever had. He would travel roundtrip 180 miles every week to get a lesson. I never had anybody do something like that. I would just give him a whole bunch of stuff and he would come back next week and just have it nailed down and be ready for something else."

"I can honestly say today that most of the really good stuff I know came from Jerry Hahn," says Grant. "He had a huge impact on me not only because he was such a great, unique player and great teacher, but also because he introduced me to so much incredible music. I hadn't heard John Coltrane, Ornette Coleman or Charlie Parker before I met him. I knew Wes Montgomery from those popular A&M albums but Jerry pushed me to check out the earlier Riverside albums and the stuff he did with Jimmy Smith. I had been playing in jazz contexts at the time but it was mostly in big band settings through high school and college jazz ensembles. So when I started studying with Jerry he just blew my head wide open with all this new music, along with his own sensibility, which is very quirky with a fun sense of humor and a bit of musical anarchy where there's always the possibility that the whole thing could go off the rails at any time. I've always loved that, where there's a little element of danger, musically." ("One For Jerry" also includes some exceptional organ work from Mike Finnigan, Hahn's former Brotherhood bandmate who was also immortalized in rock lore by playing B-3 alongside Jimi Hendrix on "Rainy Day Dream Away" and "Still Raining Still Dreaming" from Jimi's Electric Ladyland).

"Minnie Lights Out" reflects a '30s sensibility that Geissman describes as "Stephane Grappelli and Django Reinhardt meet Scott Joplin." Bassist Henry switches to tuba on this tune (as he did on "Grandfather's Banjo" from Say That!) and drummer Ray Brinker offers pie pan percussion. "The concept for this tune has to do with the original Minnie and Mickey," explains Grant. "I love the way they look, that whole 1930s sensibility. And you know, Minnie is kind of hot. I got to thinking, what is she doing with this guy? He's a loser, a hothead, he's always messing up. What if Minnie woke up one day and decided, 'You know what? I'm done with this. I'm outta here. I'm lighting out.' What would that sound like? It might have a tinge of sadness, sure, but it would also be filled with a certain optimism for the future." The eccentric piece also features the versatile Van Dyke Parks on accordion and the facile Charlie Bisharat on gypsy violin.

"Tiki Time" is Geissman's nod to exotica icon Martin Denny. "It's about that big drum / Tiki culture thing that was so popular in the '50s," says Grant. "And if you go back and check it out, the music still sounds cool. The album covers are also widely celebrated now. There's always some incredible scantily clad woman on the cover of those things with some kind of Polynesian or Hawaiian backdrop. That was an odd little moment in time in suburban America. Now it's called Space Age bachelor pad music and it's celebrated for its kitsch factor, but it seemed like a great thing to explore. And I totally heard Chuck's flugelhorn on it as I was writing." The requisite jungle drums are provided by Brinker, Kilgore, and Alex Acuna.

The lazy second line groover "Nawlins" is a feature for both Mangione and pianist Patrice Rushen. "I met Patrice years ago, around '75-'76" recalls Geissman. "Her very first album had just come out on Fantasy (Before the Dawn) and I have pictures of me playing a gig with her back then with Charles Meeks on bass, Harvey Mason on drums and the Seawind horns. And Patrice was sounding great, as always. I've seen her off and on through the years, and I was glad to get her on this project. I knew Patrice would sound fantastic on this tune because she's a very soulful kind of player. Chuck knew her a bit and I thought it would be fun to have those two in the studio together. And while some people think of her more in relation to the hit records she has had, whenever I think of Patrice the very first thing that comes to my mind is that she's a burning jazz pianist."

Regarding the underlying inspiration for "Nawlins," Grant explains, "We had taken a trip to New Orleans earlier this year. It's just such an incredible city but you can't actually imagine the devastation down there until you go look at it. It looks one way on TV but when you go right in the thick of it, down there by Fats Domino's house in the Lower Ninth Ward, it kind of looks like a mouth with all the teeth missing...so many houses missing or houses off their foundation. It's unbelievable what that city had to endure with Katrina. It's really staggering when you see it in person; the scope of it is overwhelming. You can't get your head around it until you see it firsthand. So I came home and wrote that tune after our trip."

Ferrante reappears on "Crazy Talk," a buoyant number with a slight calypso feel that features some tight guitar - tenor unisons on the Monkish head and a slinky low bass line. "It's a wacky tune in a weird meter," says Geissman. "The A section is three bars of four and then one bar of three, but then the bridge just cruises along in seven. The way the accents fall in the A section, it feels like it's even more complicated, the way the chords move. We actually captured that tune on the first take as well. We did some other takes after that but the first one had that quirky little magic."

"Ya Think?" is another all-out bop romp with an angular, thorny line executed with uncanny precision by Grant on guitar and Scanlon on tenor. Tom Scott returns for some soulful tenor blowing on "Mad Skillz," a driving shuffle-swing number underscored by Cox's wailing B-3 work and with some aggressive guitar and tenor work upfront.

The collection closes on a decidedly bluesy note with the aptly-named "Cool Blooz," which features Grant exchanging bent-string licks with his colleagues from the hit CBS sitcom Two and a Half Men, Chuck Lorre and Dennis C. Brown. Geissman solos first with typical abandon on his '65 Epiphone Casino guitar. He's followed by Men co-creator Lorre, who turns in a stinging blues-rock solo on his '64 Strat, and co-writer Brown with a Dobro solo. Finnigan adds a wailing organ solo to round off this urgent closer.

"That's my fun tune," says Geissman. "I wanted to write a blues tune that had a guitar melody in three-part harmony. And I thought it would be fun to have my writing partner on the show, Dennis Brown, come and play. And Chuck Lorre, who is quite a successful television writer and producer, is actually a really good blues guitar player. In fact, I think his main passion is music, so I thought it would be fun to invite him to come in and play on this track as well. And he was so thrilled and happy to do it. It's our Two and a Half Men jam!"

It makes for a rousing finale on what stands as Grant's most eclectic and gratifying outing to date. Cool, man, cool!

- Bill Milkowski

Bill Milkowski is a regular contributor to Jazz Times magazine. He is also the author of JACO: The Extraordinary and Tragic Life of Jaco Pastorius (www.halleonard.com).

Back To Top