Grant with Chuck Mangione (playing the now-legendary guitar solo on Chuck's 1978 hit “Feels So Good”)
Grant's "Feels So Good" Guitar Solo
Chuck on Flugelhorn & Keyboards; Grant Geissman on Guitar; Charles Meeks on Bass; James Bradley, Jr. on Drums Chris Vadala on Everything Else!
It is enormously gratifying to me that, even now, hardly a week goes by that someone doesn't mention the guitar solo I played on Chuck Mangione's 1978 hit "Feels So Good." I've had people tell me that it made such an impression on them that they vividly remember where they were when they first heard it.
Certainly "the solo" has taken on a life of its own. In answer to numerous requests, here is my transcription which I did not long after the record was released. NOTE: this is the complete album version! The single that was played on the radio was an edited version that married the first half (eight bars) of me playing the melody with the second half of my solo.
And oddly, one of the radio versions was sped up a half step so the record would clock in at a shorter, more radio-friendly playing time; the original version is in the key of F.
One question that always comes up is "How did you do it? Was it improvised in one take, or what?" The answer isn't quite so simple. We went into the studio and did demos of most of the songs on the "Feels So Good" album, just experimenting with the material and trying things out. Then we went on the road for several weeks, all the while listening over and over to those demos, and playing the tunes at night. By the time we got back into the studio to do the final recording, the band was on fire! On several tunes (including "Feels So Good") we had all gotten so into what we had played on the demos that most of us relearned the solos we had previously improvised, and replayed those solos on the final takes. I fixed up a few things I didn't like in my demo solo, and there still were a couple of bars that I didn't have finalized (I improvised something in the studio for those bars on the final take), and that was it. So the final "Feels So Good" solo is actually a combination of improvisation and composition.
Geissman was born in Berkeley, California and grew up in San Jose. He took guitar lessons from local musicians, such as Geoff Levin (of the pop group People!), Bud Dimock, Don Cirallo, and Terry Saunders. Encouraged by these teachers to learn jazz standards and to improvise, he began playing in rock bands on weekends and also with small jazz groups and big bands. As a high school senior, he entered formal study with avant-garde guitarist Jerry Hahn, who introduced him to the music of Charlie Parker, Miles Davis, John Coltrane, and Ornette Coleman.
After graduating from Prospect High School, Geissman attended De Anza College, where he played in both De Anza's jazz band and the Daddio Band (of older professionals). Both were led by jazz educator Herb Patnoe, who was the director of Stan Kenton's Jazz Clinics. Since the Kenton band at that time had no guitar player, Patnoe recommended Geissman to teach at Kenton's summer clinics in both Sacramento and in southern California. While teaching at these clinics for several summers, Geissman first met (and played with) drummer Peter Erskine and pianist Dan Haerle.
In 1973, Geissman moved to Los Angeles and attended one semester at Cal State Fullerton, where he played in the band led by pianist and clarinetist Tom Ranier. Transferring to Cal State Northridge in 1974 to be closer to the Hollywood studio scene, Geissman joined the Northridge "A" band led by jazz educator Joel Leach. While at Northridge, he began playing in both Gerald Wilson's Big Band and with Louie Bellson's Big Band, recording several albums with Bellson. For Louie Bellson's Live at the Concord Summer Festival, Geissman contributed an original composition, "Starship Concord." He began playing in local jazz venues with Tony Rizzi's guitar band, recording Tony Rizzi's Five Guitars Play Charlie Christian (1976), which featured Tom Ranier and Pete Christlieb.
Geissman's first gig with fluegelhornist Chuck Mangione was at the Santa Monica Civic auditorium on November 9, 1976. A short tour of the Pacific Northwest followed, and soon after Mangione asked Geissman to become a permanent member of the band. Mangione's band consisted of Geissman on guitar, Charles Meeks on bass, Chris Vadala on woodwinds, and James Bradley Jr. on drums. Geissman appeared on the album Feels So Good (1977), which sold two million copies. On radio, the single "Feels So Good", featuring Geissman's guitar solo, was an international hit. A 1980 issue of Current Biography called it the most recognized tune since "Michelle" by The Beatles.
In 1978 Geissman released his first solo album, Good Stuff (Concord Jazz), which featured fellow Northridge alumnus Gordon Goodwin on sax, Tom Ranier on piano, Bob Magnussen on bass guitar, and Steve Shaeffer on drums. Grant left Mangione's band in 1981 to pursue other endeavors, including his own albums, session work, and composing. Two of his albums (Flying Colors and Time Will Tell) reached number one in the Gavin and Radio and Records Contemporary Jazz airplay charts, and many his recordings reached the top ten.
Geissman reunited with Mangione in 2000 when they recorded the album Everything for Love (Chesky). Geissman's early musical influences came full circle in 2003 when he played Dobro on Ringo Starr's Ringorama album. In 2006, he released his thirteenth album as a leader, Say That!, on his own label, Futurism Records. A throwback to the jazz that first influenced him, he has described the sound of this album as "Wes Montgomery meets Horace Silver meets Jimmy Smith." In All About Jazz, John Kelman said,
It's a shame that the words 'smooth jazz' have become an oxymoron. Say That!, with its relaxed pace and easy-on-the-ears approach, is as smooth as it gets. But smooth jazz it ain't. Geissman's clear roots in the jazz mainstream, and a less-is-more style that reveals greater depth, makes Say That! a welcome return to the fold for a guitarist who's always deserved more street cred than he's received.