I can’t remember what year it was, but I think the first time I saw Tom Grant play was at one of the summer big band music festivals they used to hold in Arlington. We must have been coming back from a vacation and saw all the activity, so we stopped by. Anyway, Tom is always turning up in my column for his CEBU Lounge shows, and I’m pretty sure we saw him earlier this year, around Valentines Day. It makes for a nice evening. He plays with a top-notch band and he’s usually teamed up with a great female singer.
Tom recently sent in a promo copy of his new disc, “Life is Good.” I’d call it piano-based smooth jazz. I have one other CD of his, “Edge of the World,” which is pretty similar in format, maybe more of a pop feel, though. His new disc features singer Shelly Rudolph on a song they wrote together, “Gold,” which really stands out after listening to the first few instrumental tunes. Tom did use some electronic/drum programming on these tracks, and with the exception of two or three tunes, it’s an instrumental album. So, if you need some music for that dinner-party, or just want to zone-out and relax, check this disc out!
Read Jim’s interview with Tom Grant
1. You recently did a show at the Hood River Inn - CEBU Lounge. How did that CD release party go?
It was great...packed on a Tuesday night in HR. Big success. I had Shelly Rudolph singing with me and it was great fun. People in HR are starting to catch on to our gig there...we’ve been doing this for 3 years now.
It’s always the third Tuesday of every month.
2. Let's talk about the new CD – “Life is Good.” How is the album being received, and who are some of the artists that have helped you out on this CD?
Besides Shelly, I’ve got drummer Reinhardt Mels on two tracks, David Captein on bass for 3 tracks, and drummer Jeffrey Frankel on 1 track. A guitarist named Ross Seligman on one track,...and Danny Schauffler who has played Cebu with me twice, is on the very first cut.
3. How long did it take to record this project? Do you record in your own home studio?
Yes I record in my home studio. Some of the songs have been knocking around in my computer for up to 5 years. I got serious about this as a record maybe 2 years ago. So it’s been a bit of a process. But I have fun recording. We did some actual live recording ...that is live in the studio without using programmed drums, bass, etc. But a lot of it...I’d say most is with programmed instruments. So since I was able to take my time with this, I did. They’re all original songs and I tinkered with everything endlessly.
4. What would you say is the biggest difference between this new album and your first recordings?
I’d say that I know a lot more about the recording process. And I like the songs I’m writing now better than most of the old ones. My first recordings were fairly primitive. But then that was back in the 70’s and early 80’s. They had to sound like the era from which they came. I had a record that came out in 1980 called “You Hardly Know Me” and I tried to make it a bunch of pop songs. When I hear that record now it’s rather embarrassing. There’s a few cuts that don’t make me wretch and convulse. But overall, it’s bad. And that album won’t go away. I see it on YouTube where some idiot has just taken the album cover and that’s the only visual all thru one of the more excruciating songs of that album. There’s some other funny Tom Grant stuff on YouTube these days. And there will be more.
5. There's a lot of different types of jazz. What category does your style fit in?
Well I like to play straight ahead jazz (Miles, Coltrane, Monk, etc.) but I also like the standards and these days especially, I love to accompany singers. I play with several singers and I’ve had lots of them up to CEBU over the past 3 years.
But the current album is a throwback to the stuff I was doing in the 80’s and 90’s so it’s more of a “smooth jazz” type record...sometimes called funky jazz, crossover, pop jazz, fusion jazz or new age. Categories are stupid but necessary for marketing I guess. So I thought I’d make this one easy for marketing...”smooth jazz..106.7 Kay-Kay Jay ZEE” that’s what I used to say in my best breathy radio voice back in the late 90’s when I had a radio show on the local smooth jazz station in Portland. I did some pretty good interviews back then...Grover Washington, Chuck Mangione, Diana Krall, etc.
Well I hope that helps Jim.
You can email me if you want any clarifications, etc.