The title of Jay Geils' solo debut is Jay Geils Plays Jazz!, but for many listeners that exclamation mark should be substituted with a question mark, since Geils has long been associated with the raw, greasy, house-party blues-rock of the J. Geils Band, which seems a million miles away from jazz. Thing is, for as down and dirty as the JGB got, they were always exceptional musicians, something that was proven in Geils' '90s blues band with Magic Dick, Bluestime. That latter outfit gave Geils room to grow as a guitarist, as did his other project, the New Guitar Summit, and the full extent of his transformation to jazz guitarist is shown on Jay Geils Plays Jazz! This is firmly grounded in '50s bop, favoring the laid-back nature of cool but the chops of hard bop, and it dabbles in big bands, blues, and swing, including Western swing in the form a nifty version of Bob Wills' "I Hear You Talkin' to Me." While there are no great surprises here, Geils has supple support from pianist/organist Al Wilson, bassist John Turner, and drummer Gordon Grottenthaler, plus some nice spotlights from saxophonists Scott Hamilton, Greg Piccolo, and Crispin Cioe. Geils himself is tasteful and engaging throughout, making this album a thoroughly enjoyable first foray into jazz for the guitarist.
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AllMusic Review by Stephen Thomas Erlewine