Grant Geissman – Bop! Bang! Boom! – Futurism Records FR-2055, 65:51 ****½ [7/17/12]
(Grant Geissman – guitars; Brian Scanlon – tenor saxophone, alto saxophone, soprano saxophone; Emilio Palame – piano, Fender Rhodes piano; Trey Henry – acoustic bass; Ray Brinker – drums; Alex Acuna – percussion; Brian Kilgore – percussion; Tom Scott – tenor saxophone, alto saxophone; Jim Cox – Hammond B-3 organ; Russell Fernandez – Fender Rhodes piano; Kevin Axt – acoustic bass; Van Dyke Parks – accordion; Doug Lacey – accordion; Albert Lee – guitar; Larry Carlton – guitar; Greg Mathieson – Hammond B-3 organ; Tom Ranier – piano; Dennis C. Brown – guitar, harmonica; Chuck Lorre – guitar; Michael Finnigan – Hammond B-3 organ; Corey Allen – piano; Leland Sklar – bass)
Grant Geissman has been described as a crossover, new age, and contemporary jazz guitarist. That may only scratch the surface of this freewheeling artist. Growing up in San Jose, California, he was influenced by jazz at an early age. His initial breakthrough occurred when he played on Chuck Mangione’s crossover hit, “Feels So Good”. As a band leader, he has releases 13 albums. Additionally, he co-wrote the theme from the television show, Two And A Half Men. He is respected by his peers for an unwavering commitment to exploring the boundaries of his craft.
Geissman’s latest release, Bop! Bang! Boom! (This is the third installment of a musical trilogy, as detailed in the liner notes.) is an exciting project, featuring a diverse cadre of jazz, blues and rock session players. To say that the music is eclectic doesn’t begin to describe this potpourri of genre-bending jazz. Things start off with a downbeat and funk jazz riff on “Boom”. Geissman’s fluid yet hot licks are excellent. Emilio Palame executes some bop-inspired runs on piano and is followed by a muscular solo on tenor by Brian Scanlon. The next cut, “The Singularity” is more traditional and gives Geissman room to improvise. Rhythmic momentum is sustained on “Q Tip” (homage to Quincy Jones” “Soul Bossa Nova”). There are plenty of soul jazz guitar riffs and veteran Tom Scott delivers a signature tenor solo. There is a melodic interaction between the various band members. Forceful blues swagger imbues “Off The Grid” which includes some fine work on alto saxophone by Scott, and a nasty Hammond B3 organ run by Jim Cox.
Various cultural influences are represented on many songs. Check out the Middle Eastern tone of the fusion piece, “Go To The Window”. Switching to acoustic guitar, Geissman leads the group in a New Orleans stomp (“$25 Stella”) that features two accordionists (Van Dyke Parks, Doug Lacey) and another rocking Palame solo. The acoustic framework is enhanced by back porch percussion (tambourine, washboards and spoons). Switch to a dynamite three guitar summit with Albert Lee and Larry Carlton rocking the blues on “Texas Shuffle”, and you get guitar playing at its best.
Some notable changes of pace can be found as well. With Scanlon on flute, “Samba En Menor” features classical guitar lead and Brazilian rhythm by Ray Brinker (drums), Alex Acuna (congas, bongos) and Brian Kilgore (pander, shaker and triangle). Tom Ranier contributes a breezy piano to this sweeping arrangement. For lovers of low down blues, “Take Yer Time” has another three guitar attack (Dennis C. Brown and Chuck Lorre). At the core of this album is the considerable dexterity of Geissman. His only solo performance, “Guitarism” features a lyrical, Spanish-tinged classical guitar that is very moving.
Often packaging is insignificant, but not in the case of Bop! Bang! Boom!. The visceral artwork by Miles Thompson is a mind-blowing, psychedelic, “bachelor lounge” concoction of surreal animated figures and bizarre skeleton guitar players and dancing spacemen. The liner notes (Bill Milkowski) and album credits (which include specific model #s of all of the guitars) are fold-out inserts, and there are four “collectible” cards. (Perhaps there is a Stan Kenton rookie card out there somewhere.). This is a great album!
TrackList: Boom!; The Singularity; Q Tip; Un Poco Espanol; Go To The Window; Good Morning Mr. Phelps; $25 Stella; Texas Shuffle; Samba En Menor; Guitarism; Take Yer Time; Off The Grid
Craft Recordings/Varèse Sarabande release a stunning updated vinyl of Starship Troopers.