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January 27, 2006

CD Review Jay Geils Plays Jazz

Written by
cindy mcleod

CD Review
Jay Geils Plays Jazz
Stony Plain Records / 2005

Countless fans from around the globe are familiar with the guitar of Jay Geils, but I’d bet there are those who don’t know the gifted artist within the jazz idiom. Familiar as a rock & blues phenomenon, he reveals another side of his enormous talent with the release of ‘Jay Geils Plays Jazz’, a dozen tasty cuts of jazz, blues, and western swing.

The instrumentation is part of the charm and inspiration of the project, with Jay Geils’ electric guitar, Al Wilson’s piano/organ, Gordon Gottenthaler’s drums, and the bass of John Turner forming the core group. Guests on the album include tenor sax great Scott Hamilton, clarinetist Billy Novick, tenor men Greg Piccolo, Rich Lataille, and Crispin Cioe (who doubles on baritone), as well as Jerry Miller’s electric mandolin, Frankie Blandarino’s console steel guitar, and Geils’ long time friend and colleague, guitarist Gerry Beaudoin.

Beginning with Benny Goodman’s‘Wholly Cats’, identified forever with the great Charlie Christian and the Goodman Sextet, Scott Hamilton conjures the beefy, breathy sound of George Auld’s tenor in a fresh new voice. ‘I Don’t Know Enough About You’ gives a nod to vocalist Peggy Lee, who originally sang the tune she penned with her husband Dave Barbour. Organ, bass and drums turn out a clean trio sound to suspend Geils’ guitar as he convincingly mimics the vocalist’s phrasing. Pure delight, the Bob Wills and his Texas Playboy’s version of ‘Mission To Moscow’ is blended with Goodman’s lines and Basie’s swing touch for a beautifully crafted synthesis of western swing and jazz. Clifford Brown’s ‘Blue’s Walk’ is a live cut off the floor, with spontaneous combustion firing this up-swing version. From the pen of Roland Kirk comes ‘Funk Underneath’, with Geils’ guitar and Piccolo’s tenor laying down the catchy melody in unison, and the rhythm section doubling the time during the solo section, driving the dynamic feel.

Each tune pays homage to an influence of Geils, with composers and players Bill Doggett, Duke Ellington, Roland Kirk and the little-known guitarist, Dickie Thompson receiving kudos these tracks. With this in mind, Geils presents a sparkling new finish on a burnished undercoat of fine music. A first rate-recording from a first rate player, ‘Jay Geils Plays Jazz’ indeed.

Cindy McLeod

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