Grant Geissman (born April 13, 1953) is an American jazz guitarist and Emmy-nominated composer. He has recorded extensively for several labels since 1976 and played guitar on the theme for Monk and other TV series.
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 Junior 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 has been a regular member of Gordon Goodwin's Big Phat Band. He has appeared as a session musician on albums by Peter Allen, Sheila E., Miki Howard, Quincy Jones, Rodney Friend, Diane Schuur, and Van Dyke Parks. He has recorded with Keiko Matsui, 3rd Force, David Benoit, Cheryl Bentyne, and Lorraine Feather and had a guitar solo as a separate track on the album Hold an Old Friend's Hand by Tiffany.
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.
Geissman and Mangione appeared on many televisions shows, including The Tonight Show, Dinah Shore, Merv Griffin, Phil Donahue, The Midnight Special, Don Kirshner's Rock Concert and Dick Clark's New Year's Rockin' Eve. Geissman's other albums with Mangione include Children of Sanchez (1978), Live at the Hollywood Bowl (1979), and Fun and Games (1980).
Geissman's playing has been heard on numerous television series, including Dawson's Creek, Family Affair, Boy Meets World, Touched by an Angel and Lizzie McGuire. He can be heard playing the Djangoesque acoustic guitar on the theme for the television series Monk, starring Tony Shalhoub. Nominated for a 2001 Emmy for co-writing the song "No Puedo Olvidar" for the daytime drama Passions, he received an Emmy nomination in 2004 for another Passions song, "Momma, Gotta Let Her Go". In 2003, he was nominated for an Annie award for producing Van Dyke Parks' songs for HBO's Harold and the Purple Crayon. He has written additional music for films and television movies, including The Ponder Heart (2001), Call Me Claus (2001), Monday Night Mayhem (2002), Die, Mommie, Die! (2003) and The Mojo Cafe (2004). Dennis C. Brown and Geissman collaborated on the underscore for the hit CBS-TV sitcom Two and a Half Men. The show's theme, co-written by Geissman, was nominated for an Emmy Award in 2004.