Interview: Jay Geils

Dan McAvinchey: Jay, let's talk first about the new CD. When you first started getting tracks together for "Jay Geils Plays Jazz!", what were your objectives?

Jay Geils: The main objective was to make an old style swinging album. No overdubs, no fixes, all live in the studio to try to capture the moment. We did no more than three takes of any tune.

Dan McAvinchey: To me, all twelve tracks on the CD are highlights - do you have any personal favorites among the tracks?

Jay Geils: Thank you. My favorites are " Wholly Cats", "There Will Never Be Another You", "Honeyboy" and " LB Blues." I thought we really captured the original spirt and sound on these cuts.

Dan McAvinchey: Tell us a little bit about the guitars, effects and amplification you like to use to get your sound.

Jay Geils: I used a blond cutaway 1939 L-5 with a Charlie Christian bar pick-up and a 1950's Gibson GA-30 amplifier on most of the tracks.

Dan McAvinchey: How often are you able to showcase the tunes in a live setting?

Jay Geils: On every gig. Whether with my quintet with fellow guitarist Gerry Beaudoin or the New Guitar Summit with Gerry and Duke Robillard I try to play two or three from my recording.

Dan McAvinchey: How long have you been into jazz and blues?

Jay Geils: As long as I can remember. My father was a big jazz fan and I heard jazz growing up. I got a subscription to Downbeat when I was in junior high school and if a recording got four or five stars I'd check it out. I was a trumpet player in high school and even went to a jazz band camp. Famous jazz pianist Keith Jarret attended the same camp and I rember he was playing great as a kid.

My father took me into NYC to see people like Louis Armstrong , Dizzy and Sonnie Rollins Like most kids in the 1960's I was swept up in the folk and blues revolution and started playing guitar. I was really into blues and hung out and jammed with artists like Muddy Waters, John Lee Hooker, Mike Bloomfield and Buddy Guy and Junior Wells. I am even on a Buddy Guy-Junior Wells recording.

After the J.Geils band ran it's course Magic Dick and I started a blues band called Bluestime. Besides playing and making records with Magic Dick I went in the woodshed and started to learn and practice jazz tunes. Then in 1994 I met jazz guitarist Gerry Beaudoin and I thought I should do some playing with him to sharpen up my jazz chops. Soon I became a regular at his gigs sitting in and before we knew it we were playing jazz clubs and concerts across he USA and Canada.

We have made three CD's and a DVD together or with Duke Robillard in the New Guitar Summit. Gerry is on "Jay Geils Plays Jazz!" and takes some bitching chord solos on acoustic guitar. I got side tracked by the rock and roll thing but always listened to jazz and now have been back playing it for twelve years now. Gerry and I just completed an all acoustic CD called the "Kings Of Strings". I love being back doing the music I grew up with as a kid.

Dan McAvinchey: How did you first get started in music and guitar playing?

Jay Geils: My father was very encouraging and always playing great music around the house. My guitar roots started when I fooled around with a ukulele my father had since the 1930's. As I said, I played trumpet and drums, and for high school graduation Dad bought me an old harmony guitar for twenty five dollars. I remember really being knocked out by my father's record "Bennie Goodman Combos", which had Charlie Christian on electric guitar. Charlie blew me away then and still does whenever I hear him. I still have that original record today.

I went to school in Boston and immerssed myself in the folk and blues boom going on there. I met the guys who would become the J.Geils Band in Boston. In we first called ourselves the J.Geils Blues Band. We gigged a lot, I quit school to play music, hung out and learned from anyone I could and became a complete guitar fanatic.

Dan McAvinchey: Do you find your current work to be more creatively satisfying than your days with the J. Geils Band?

Jay Geils: I find it more satisfying but it is a logical progression for me as a guitarist. I loved my days with the J.Geils Band and feel we created some great music and touched many people. I really enjoyed the J.Geils Band reunion tour in 1999 and a few benifits we played in the past few years. But I wouldn't want to be doing what
the Rolling Stones are doing today. I like my life and feel honored to tour with
guitarists like B.B. King, Duke Robillard , Howard Alden and Gerry Beaudoin. I have
also played with John Pizzarelli and his father Bucky. I have played many times on
B.B. King tours and last time was a first for B.B. as well as us. Instead of having
Bluestime play a set , B.B. had Magic Dick and I come out and close the show for
three or four tunes with his band. What an honor that was. Every date on that tour
is etched in my brain. I love B.B.

Dan McAvinchey: How are you approaching marketing, publicity and promotion for your new CD?

Jay Geils: I am fortunate to have as a partner Gerry Beaudoin. Besides being a great musician, he is a consumate businessman and well respected in the music business. He shopped my recording and found a home for it on a Canadian based roots label called Stony Plain records. They hired Mark Pucci Media to do promotion and they got me a spot on CNN news. I do any interview I can arrange to promote the CD. Gerry has been marketing all over the internet and working in conjunction with our record company to keep getting press and putting the word out about, "Jay Geils Plays Jazz!".

Dan McAvinchey: Have you heard any new guitarists that have really caught your ear in the past couple of years?

Jay Geils: John Mayer and blues guitarist Mike Welch. Mike has sat in with Bluestime and really knocked me out. He is blues guitar wise far before beyond his years and plays great.

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Dan McAvinchey: How do you feel about the current crop of guitar-oriented magazines and how they are currently covering instrumental music?

Jay Geils: I only get 20th Century Guitar, Just Jazz Guitar and Vintage Guitar. They do a good job. I wish all the other guitar magazines would put more emphasis on jazz guitar. I know the kids want to read about their favorite rocker but it would be nice to educate them about our original American art forms jazz and blues. .

Dan McAvinchey: Other than guitar-oriented music, what kind of music do you like to listen to?

Jay Geils: Classic jazz and blues. I don't just listen for guitar but all the jazz instruments. You can learn a lot listening to how other instruments with a different vocabulary approach playing jazz.

Dan McAvinchey: Are there other guitar styles you'd like to explore on future recordings?

Jay Geils: No. I am pretty much a jazz and blues head at this point in my life.

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Two time Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame Nominee Jay Geils from the J.Geils Band has been pursing his first musical loves - jazz and blues - for quite a while now. Since the break up of his internationally known rock group, Geils decided to focus on these most original American art forms, and recently has released a swinging jazz CD, appropriately entitled "Jay Geils Plays Jazz!"

Dan McAvinchey asked Geils to talk about his early exposure to jazz and blues and to give the lowdown on his current recording.