Merely putting three great guitar players together doesn’t guarantee the results will qualify as music. All too often, ego, lack of chemistry, or merely inadequate rehearsal time results in a stiff, formulaic CD. Fortunately, this New Guitar Summit CD avoids these pitfalls. Jay Geils, Duke Robillard, and Gerry Beaudoin have a level of simpatico that would make many longstanding bands envious.
Given Geils’ reputation as a bluesy rocker and Robillard’s penchant for post-war electric blues, you might expect that the material would be along those lines. But instead of updated versions of “Love Stinks” or “Route 66,” the album is populated by classic-style jazz numbers such as Fats Waller’s “Honeysuckle Rose” and Benny Goodman’s “Flying Home.” Other material comes from Beaudoin; his four contributions all have a timeless feel and could have been written in 1948 just as well as 2008. The arrangements and orchestrations also harken to post-swing and pre-bop ’40s and ’50s jazz. Most tracks have only drums, bass, and guitars.
Another notable aspect of Shivers is how each guitarist modified his signature personal style to fit within this musical context. Those familiar with Geils’ early work with the J. Geils Blues Band will be surprised to hear how different he plays on this CD. Nary a bent string or fuzz-tone laden note will you hear. The three guitarists also opted for harmonically rich archtop jazz guitar tones. Their guitars sound so similar that without the liner notes listing the solos order it’s unlikely listeners could tell who was soloing when.
And as if three great guitarists weren’t enough, Randy Bachman does a guest spot on guitar and vocals on the Mose Allison tune “Your Mind is On Vacation.” He, too, sublimates his signature rock and roll style for a more subdued and urbane delivery. The result is a version that would make its creator smile. Speaking of happy faces, the most endearing aspect of Shivers is how convincing the whole album sounds. These three players don’t merely try to do a retro guitar jazz album; they completely succeed.
This article originally appeared in VG‘s Oct. ’08 issue. All copyrights are by the author and Vintage Guitar magazine. Unauthorized replication or use is strictly prohibited.