|Here’s a brand new jazz release from a former rocker. Jay Geils sold a lot of records in the 70s and 80s. Many will recall the J.Geils Band and their million sellers, Centerfold in ’81 and Freeze Frame in ’82. Jay placed at least a dozen songs in the top 40.
It was only a year ago that Geils joined forces with two other major guitarists, Duke Robillard and Gerry Beaudoin turning out a spectacular blues CD. New Guitar Summit is a resounding success. While Jay’s guitar prowess is known to rockers and blues fans through his session work with B.B. King, Mike Bloomfield, Paul Butterfield, John Lee Hooker and Bonnie Raitt, jazz buffs were somewhat unaware of his skills. That is about to change! Being the son of a jazz fan, Jay accompanied his father to see the likes of Satchmo, Miles, Mingus, Basie and the Duke. The new release on Stony Plain Records is an opportunity for jazz enthusiasts to hear, appreciate and judge the skills of a fine musician.
Jay Geils Plays Jazz is a very impressive venture. The guitarist commences the set with Benny Goodman’s Wholly Cats. The tune was of course identified forever with the great Charlie Christian and the Goodman Sextet session of 1940. The late Georgie Auld played the sax on the vintage record. Jay Geils asked Scott Hamilton to do the honors with his band. While they do not attempt to clone the Goodman version, Geils and Robinson retain the spirit of the early record.
The guitarist seems to regard this session as a trip into his personal memories. Each tune is associated with nostalgic bits and pieces in his memory. He has Scott Hamilton handle the tenor solo on It’s The Talk Of The Town, a song he associates with Coleman Hawkins and Wardell Gray.
Geils is not alone when he associates I Don’t Know Enough About You with Peggy Lee. The leader draws upon only organ, bass and drums to turn out a superb version of the pretty ballad. His guitar solo mimics Peggy Lee’s vocal style delightfully. Ms. Lee and her husband Dave Barbour penned the tune.
Bob Wills and his Texas Playboys holds a particular fascination in Geils’ mind. Mission To Moscow will forever be associated with Benny Goodman and its writer Mel Powell. Jay Geils loves the Bob Wills version and parallels it on this CD. He pays further tribute to the western-swing idol with a neat delivery of I Hear You Talkin’ To Me but adds a slight Basie touch.
It’s not easy to pick favorites on an album like this but if you twist my arm, I’ll point to Talk Of The Town, Honey Boy, Wholly Cats, Funk Underneath and I Don’t Know Enough About You.
Geils goes on to honor Bill Doggett, Duke Ellington, Roland Kirk and the little-known guitarist, Dickie Thompson. While all the fine guest musicians are acknowledged on the album cover, I can’t ignore the the core unit. Keyboardist Al Wilson, bassist John Turner and a wonderful drummer Gordon Grottenthaler deserve the highest praise. Together with their leader, they form a quartet that’s tough to beat.