Shivers boasts two surprises: a pair of vocal cameos by Randy Bachman (ex-Guess Who and Bachman Turner Overdrive), who tips his fedora to Mose Allison via low-key interpretations of “Your Mind Is on Vacation” and “Everybody’s Crying Mercy.”
Bracketing these performances is what fans of NGS have come to expect: a series of seamless and swinging arrangements that showcase the dovetailing artistry of guitarists Jay Geils, Gerry Beaudoin and Duke Robillard. If the album’s title cut, the Benny Goodman Sextet tune composed by Charlie Christian and Lionel Hampton, best captures the trio’s trademark blend of verve, precision and interplay, there’s no shortage of rivals. Take, for example, the nimbly woven performances of the swing-era anthems “Flying Home” and “Honeysuckle Rose.”
While Geils (previously known as J. Geils when he led the ’70s band that bore his name) often sets the tone with his evocative, sure-handed solos, each guitarist contributes equally and elegantly to the album’s 11 performances of jazz standards and original tunes. Among the latter pieces are Robillard’s buoyant riffer “Jim Jam” and Beaudoin’s lovely closer “Mediterranean Nights,” a duet that features the composer warmly collaborating with Geils. Taking turns providing self-effacing support and the requisite smooth propulsion are bassists John Turner and Bob Nieske, plus drummers Gordon Grottenthaler and Les Harris Jr.
The liner notes post the order of the solos, so even listeners unfamiliar with the players or their choice of instruments won’t have any trouble determining who’s taking the lead. But then, considering the consistent level of play, there’s not much reason to keep score.