Born in 1962 in Philadelphia, Grant moved to Denver, CO, as a young child. Starting piano lessons before his teens, Grant was enough of a prodigy that he joined the Boulder, CO-based Pearl Street Jazz Band, a young but internationally renowned traditional New Orleans-style combo, at the impossibly tender age of 15, touring worldwide with the group for two years. Grant won a scholarship to the Eastman School of Music in Rochester, NY, at the age of 17; while at Eastman (where his classmates included future novelist Nicholson Baker), Grant focused on performance studies over theory, which he covered in his graduate studies in jazz theory and composition at the University of Miami.
Relocating to New York in the mid-'80s, Grant skirted past the then-dominant M-Base clique in the local jazz scene, instead taking a series of low-profile sideman gigs. After a long stint with Betty Carter, Grant worked with luminaries like Chico Freeman and Greg Osby before finally stepping out as a bandleader for the first time. 1994's Black Art was well-reviewed and sold respectably, and the following year's The New Bop was an even bigger critical success. 1997's Twilight Stories was released on Joel Dorn's 32 Jazz label; Grant's appearance on that label, devoted primarily to classic reissues, cemented the esteem in which bop devotees hold him. The lengthy short story written by Grant in the liner notes of 1999's Smokin' Java, his first published piece of prose, is a thinly veiled autobiography about the cross-country move of a jazz pianist from New York to Portland, OR, and his eventual addiction to coffee as a result of the brew's cultural dominance in the Pacific Northwest. The lighthearted, twisty compositions reflect the bright, tongue-in-cheek tone of the short story, for which the album functions as a suitably caffeinated soundtrack.