Pianist Roy Gerson has been knocking around North American clubs, Hollywood film score recording studios and been making actual appearances in some of those movies for a number of years. His musical heritage and performance style is rooted in an easy going up-tempo approach to swing that lends itself to the true historical forbearer of jazz - dancing. It’s simple to see how such a style would make him a favorite in the film industry. Couple this with Gerson’s youthful good looks and ample technical abilities and one would immediately suspect his time behind the camera would not last long.
Included in Gerson’s film appearances are the following: In It Could Happen To You, starring Nicholas Cage and Brigitte Fonda, Gerson and his quintet perform on a midnight yacht cruise around Manhattan while millionaires dance the night away. Martin Scorcese’s New York Stories finds Gerson’s trio featured performing at an art opening where the star, Rosanne Arquette, is moved to dance. One last example, out of many, includes The Cotton Club, where Dianne Lane performs "Am I Blue" on top of Gerson’s combo with Richard Gere on the trumpet.
That being known, it’s no surprise Gerson’s first recording as a leader, 1999’s That Gerson Person, ends up being just what you’d expect. The disc is full of ultra-clean heavily swing-dance stylized music. Throughout you hear why Gerson is so popular to Hollywood. From up-tempo rippers like, Somebody Loves Me and Lulu’s Back In Town, to the mid-tempo My Blue Heaven and Soft Winds, and through ballads like Poor Butterfly, Gerson maintains a musical control that is not given to excess. Each cut features tightly controlled arrangements featuring Gerson’s band in taut solos of un-excessive length that, all-in-all, fashion a highly listenable and enjoyable disc. You’d be hard pressed to find someone who couldn’t enjoy this music at both the musical and kinesthetic levels.
As a performer Gerson knows his stuff. He constructs his solos with textbook emotional ascending and then descending figures. Joined by the great Frank Vignola on guitar, it’s obvious the two musicians are having a great time playing off of each other. Lynn Seaton’s bass work is not just complimentary to the main voices, but also shows off the same flair for melodious solo work, such as on "If I Had You," from Eyes Wide Shut.
Don’t come to this recording looking for harmonic innovation. What Gerson instead provides is a clinic in how melodic line can be manipulated to entertain and move. Listening to Gerson’s interplay with the band on up-tempo constructs such as the Rodgers and Hart standard "Lover," easily shows why jazz used to be America’s popular music. It’s a lesson we need to be reminded of, and thankfully Gerson delivers.