New Guitar Summit brings together three long-time guitar-playing buddies from different areas of music who decided they want to record a jazz album. The result: a pleasant, imminently listenable mixture of swing, mainstream and blues.
Although Jay Geils, Duke Robillard and Gerry Beaudoinfrom are from different backgrounds, they are united in their love of such jazz guitar greats as Charlie Christian, Herb Ellis, Freddie Green and Barney Kessel. The relaxed, easy-listening groove established here attests to that.
Of the trio, Geils is the most famous, being leader of the J. Geils Band. Starting in the '60s, the band reached rock stardom before disbanding in 1984. Lately, he has played with Bluestime.
Robillard is a renowned blues player, having founded Roomful of Blues in 1967. When the group broke up, he did stints as a sideman for Bob Dylan and Dr. John.
Beaudoin, of the three, is a true jazz player and the most technically evolved of the trio. His career took off in the '90s when he teamed with David Grisman for a pair of acoustic albums.
The CD presents a varied array of arrangements from big band-era favorites to jazz standards and blues. In most of the tunes, one player takes the melody, followed by solos each in turn, cleverly punctuated with background riffs from the others.
Most tunes finish with swirling interplay between the three, often buoyed by Robillard's rhythm guitar. Bassist John Turner and drummer Gordon Gottenthaler provide strong accompaniment.
In a highlight, "Just Among Friends" begins with a duet between Geils and Beaudoin before Beaudoin goes into a swinging solo, followed by Robillard and then the trio goes back and forth with some challenging interplay. "Perdido," likewise, features a strong solo by Geils, anchored by Robillard’s rhythm guitar, before they all join for a feel-good ending driven by Gottenthaler’s drums.
"Benny’s Blues," "Lady B. Good" and "Swing with Dr. Jake" bring on the band's salute to Benny Goodman. They fully achieve their goal, capturing the swinging groove of the great one's small groups.
Three vocals are included, all quite effective, with two showcasing Robillard. The first a lilting, bouncy turn on "Never Say Never Again"; the second, an all-out gut-bucket blues wailer, "Backdoor Blues." Declaring T-Bone Walker his mentor, Duke shows he learned his lessons. As well, some great blues guitar here by Geils and Beaudoin.
Beaudoin displays his vocal chops to good advantage with a plaintive rendition of "Ain’t Nobody’s Business," the classic made famous by Billie Holiday. Also, dig his soulful guitar introduction.
All together, the CD is just the kind of pleasant, non-challenging music that you want to pop into your CD player-great to help soothe your frayed nerves on the clogged freeway drive home.