Veteran guitarist and composer Grant Geissman’s releases his 16th album, BLOOZ, via his Futurism label in a joint venture with Mesa/Bluemoon Recordings. Leading the way, he takes the listener on a stylistic adventure, exploring the genre in many forms. “The album is called BLOOZ because it’s my take on the blues. It’s a fairly wide interpretation, and not always traditional,” said Geissman.
The gospel oriented “Preach” (featuring Randy Brecker), the Latin-influenced, Santana-inspired “Carlos En Siete” (featuring David Garfield), the funky “Robben’s Hood” (featuring Robben Ford), the blues shuffle “This and That” (featuring Tom Scott), the mournfully bluesy “Sorry Not Sorry” (featuring Russell Ferrante), the rockabilly-styled “Whitewalls and Big Fins” (featuring John Jorgenson), and the Bo Diddley-inspired, three-guitar shootout “One G and Two J’s” (featuring Josh Smith and Joe Bonamassa), culminate in a project that might just surprise listeners who think they had a handle on Geissman both as a player and a composer. It’s clear that Geissman, whose storied solo recording career began with Good Stuff (1978), continues to seek out new creative directions and limitless musical possibilities.
Geissman has explored bluesy territory since his early days recording and touring with flugelhorn great Chuck Mangione—an era highlighted by his now-iconic electric guitar solo on “Feels So Good,” Mangione’s 1978 mega-hit. The San Jose native was in his senior year at Cal State-Northridge majoring in classical guitar when a mutual friend recommended him for a gig with Mangione. The rest is a long, colorful history of touring and recording that culminated in Geissman’s critically acclaimed recording Cool Man Cool (2009), which featured Mangione performing with jazz legend Chick Corea on the Geissman composition “Chuck and Chick.”
Over the years, Geissman lent his virtuosity to recordings by mainstream artists such as Quincy Jones, Steve Tyrell, Burt Bacharach, Van Dyke Parks and Brian Wilson, Elvis Costello, Robbie Williams, and Michael Feinstein; jazz talents like Lorraine Feather, Gordon Goodwin, and David Benoit; and even personal heroes Ringo Starr and Klaus Voormann. Grant grew up as a huge Beatles fan and contributing to Starr’s Ringorama album fulfilled a lifelong dream. Grant also played on a recording/documentary about the life of Voormann, the famed bassist, artist, and longtime member of the Beatles’ inner circle.
A session veteran of numerous film and television scores, Geissman co-wrote the music for all 12 seasons of the hit CBS sitcom Two and a Half Men, earning an Emmy nomination for the catchy theme song. (He included an extended jazzy take of this theme on his 2006 album Say That!). Grant co-wrote the music for all six seasons of Mike & Molly, as well as for the first season of B Positive (both on CBS).
In the mid-1980s, eight years after Good Stuff, his debut album on Concord Jazz, Geissman launched an impressive string of pop and jazz recordings that put his talents on display. His work helped define the contemporary instrumental music of the era. Many of these albums featured tracks that garnered top radio airplay: Put Away Childish Toys, Drinkin’ From The Money River, Snapshots, All My Tomorrows, Take Another Look, Flying Colors, Time Will Tell, Rustic Technology, Reruns (a compilation CD), Business as Usual, In With the Out Crowd, and There and Back Again (a DVD audio/video recording celebrating the 25th year of The Grant Geissman Quintet).
Apart from his music career, Geissman is known as an expert on—and a foremost collector of—1950s EC Comics and MAD Magazine/memorabilia. He is the Eisner Award-nominated author of five definitive books on the subjects, the most recent of which is The History of EC Comics, an oversized coffee-table tome published by Taschen in 2021. His other books are Collectibly MAD (Kitchen Sink Press, 1995), Tales of Terror! The EC Companion (with Fred von Bernewitz, Gemstone/Fantagraphics, 2000) Foul Play! The Art and Artists of the Notorious 1950s EC Comics! (HarperDesign, 2005), and FELDSTEIN: The MAD Life and Fantastic Art of Al Feldstein (IDW, 2013). Grant also edited and designed The Complete Junior and Sunny by Al Feldstein (IDW, 2014).
BLOOZ is the fourth album on Geissman’s own label, Futurism, following the trilogy of Say That!, Cool Man Cool, and BOP! BANG! BOOM! There is an audible exultation and joy to be found in the music, as it was recorded just after the COVID-19 shutdown ended. The musicians play with the abandon of prisoners whose sentences have been commuted. “We recorded together in the studio, and it was so amazing to finally play with people again,” Geissman said. “And I love this album,” he exudes. “It’s one that I always wanted to make.”
The album opener, “Praise,” features guest trumpeter Randy Brecker, who contributes a stinging soul-jazz solo. “Side Hustle” is a bluesy rhumba—an oxymoron until you hear what Geissman and pianist Jim Cox do with it. The Santana-influenced “Carlos En Siete” is the album’s furthest departure from traditional blues forms. Pianist David Garfield plays a masterful solo on this tune, which is in 7/4. The unusual and challenging time signature takes nothing away from the killer, percussion-driven Latin groove. “Time Enough at Last” is a minor blues that would be quite at home on a 1960s Blue Note album. Grant and pianist Russell Ferrante make strong solo statements, and trade fours before the return of the melody.
BLOOZ features sax on only two songs “… But those songs were just crying out for Tom Scott’s playing,” said Grant. Scott’s tenor sax cuts the groove deep on the soulful “Fat Back,” and offers a swinging rejoinder on the jazz shuffle “This and That.” Switching gears, “Rage Cage” is a scorching track that finds Geissman battling it out with Jim Cox on B3 organ, sounding something like a mash-up of ZZ Top and Jimmy Smith.
“Robben’s Hood” is a funky groover that features Geissman and blues/jazz gunslinger Robben Ford. They play the melody together, and then split off to each offer stingingly facile solos. “One G and Two J’s” is a Bo Diddley-influenced tune that features Grant, Josh Smith, and Joe Bonamassa playing a three-guitar melody together followed by each contributing some crazily great blues-based shredding.
“Whitewalls and Big Fins” is a rockabilly-styled tune with John Jorgenson and Geissman sharing the melody, and then each producing some nimble solo picking, while “Stranger Danger” is a seductively understated, darkly moody minor blues that features Grant and pianist Ferrante. The album’s final track, “Sorry Not Sorry,” is an introspective ballad that begins with just solo guitar.
BLOOZ is a collaboration between Geissman’s Futurism label and Mesa/Bluemoon, marking his return to a label that released four of his albums in the early 1990s.“I am very excited about working with Grant again on this excellently crafted album,” said Mesa/Bluemoon honcho George Nauful. “In 33 years of running the label, I can honestly say that his releases are among my very favorites. I love every track on this new album! All the compositions and the musicianship are off the charts. I know it will be a huge critical success.”
“My decision to start the Futurism label, and writing and recording in a more traditional jazz vein, came after several years of soul searching to figure out what I wanted to do and what kind of music would mean something to me,” Geissman said. “I started listening again to the classic Wes Montgomery, Jimmy Smith, and Horace Silver albums I loved growing up and began to appreciate even more fully the way they balanced great melodies with jazz improvisations. That balance became the basis of the first three albums I recorded on Futurism. One of the reasons I created the label was so that I could explore anything I wanted—which to me is what an artist is supposed to do. On BLOOZ, with the help of great friends and incredible musicians, I had some of the most fun and made some of the best music of my career. And what could be wrong with that?”