Before we start the review, how about a bit of background on Joe Holiday?
Born in 1956, Joe started his life playing banjo and telling jokes at the age of six, as a guest star on the Roy Rodgers Dale Evans television variety show on NBC. From there he went on to do spots on other shows working with Edgar Bergen, Dennis Day, Art Linkletter, Eddie Peabody and then went on to fame and fortune doing radio and television commercials "I want my Maypo!"
During his stint at Giannini Junior High school, he won an Epstein grant for classical piano - and picked up the bass during his time in junior high school and continued being a working musician, playing bass in the hotels and clubs around the bay area of San Francisco, and playing and recording with musicians like Paul Horn and Eddie Harris. He has been playing, recording and writing music ever since. After touring around the world and living in NYC, he has moved back to the bay area and now resides in Sonoma CA. where he enjoys taking care of dogs at his Doggie Bed and Breakfast.
More on Joe can be found at his website.
Strength And Kindness
This album, by Joe Holiday and Somebody Else’s Nightmare, is - in a nutshell - damn fine music. It’s Jazz for sure, but the overall flavour is so much more. Parts of it are vintage, a real trip into the past; other parts are fresh and modern, leaning toward Pop and R&B. The entire collection is playful and deliciously indulgent. The title itself speaks of setting one aspect against the counterpart to give it meaning. Kindness is tempered with strength so as not to be exploited, and strength is tempered with kindness so as not to be cruel. It makes for a listening experience that takes you to both sides.
I fell in love immediately with the opening number, Destination Nowhere. It flows over your ears like warm butter over a stack of pancakes! Opening with the rhythms of the keyboard, we are then treated with Joe singing:
I can get along without you, but not very well I can get up every morning; got no one to tell Pick a place to go, a thing to do - watch the hands go round the clock Your eyes, the eyes that saw our future, now see the distance growing fast Torn and forgotten, (feels like) a snapshot from the past Might have worn out my welcome, must be time to be going Destination Nowhere
I love this song; I can’t tell you how quickly it worked its way into my heart.
There are three other tunes with lyrics (all composed by Joe himself), so the project is a nice mix of vocals and instrumental treats. Joe plays a skillful, learned bass; he knows how to use it, and when. The solos catch your ears in their clever placements. I love it when he steps outside the box of style; sometimes the bassline is perfectly attuned to the music; other times he plays something you really didn’t expect. This kind of experimentation definitely keeps you on your toes.
Yard Full Of Joes is a potent, modern number. A lot of licks and dancing moments. Not dance floor dance moments - more like standing around and shuffling them feet moments. Swaying and bobbing that head.
The title song, Strength and Kindness, starts with the bass and drums, and is then joined by horns and keys. There are beautiful little nuances here and there, and the theme of the album is revealed. This and that. Here and there. Counterbalance.
Worker Bees (Bee Suite) speaks its own language, and I mean that literally. Listen to what Joe says about it:
“In Russia, which I was fortunate to visit in the 1980s, workers seemed to be honored. In this piece. I imagined the worker bees doing their job day in day out. I also imagined an ancient tribe of hardworking people who tended their sacred bees while singing to them as they honored their mutual work. I invented the “bee language” to reflect this. Musically the piece is composed of one-chord vamps with small cued sections separating them. This allowing the musicians a bit of a breather where they don't have to read so much and can just play.”
The Light Will Show The Way is a six and a half minute modern game of syncopation, spoken poetry, and impressive solos for each of the instruments. This is another of my faves in the roster.
If Worker Bees is the opening to Bee Suite, it is later followed by Drones, the member of the bee family who has no purpose but to mate once and die. This is a slower piece, with the instruments buzzing the voice of melancholy. Of course, the reward comes at the end (nudge, nudge).
Generic Happy Song treats us to a more upbeat adventure, but what I find interesting is that it’s a little on the aggressive side. It’s upbeat, but it’s much more intense than a lot of other “happy” themes I’ve heard. It doesn’t lilt or bounce or dance along with a flower in its hair; Generic Happy Song gives me the impression that it’s about someone who’s simply thrown off the yoke for the first time, and doesn’t quite have a full-on, actual happy-thang going on. Yet. I see it as a song of potential.
On the next number, Snake Hair, Joe tries his hand at the Duduk. According to Joe, he started by noodling around with the instrument, and decided to compose a song around it. The song is haunting and exotic. When the full band joins in, the piece explodes in mood and you start shaking them hips! Another fave!
Lonely Town is that “solo stroll down the street” number of days gone by. A noir movie moment. Hat brim down. It’s raining. Maybe a stray dog jots across the street up ahead. I’m just being lonely and looking for a place that understands. What a mood!
Again Dawn is the resolution. When an artist includes a song of resolution, he’s telling the listener that the themes and tones of the album have come to a decision point, and that once the story is told, we must now make the choice where to go.
Me? I think I’ll go back to the beginning and have another listen.
Thanks, Joe and Co. for treating my ears to this lovely collection. Can’t wait for the next round!
© 2014 CL Seamus for Thunder Row
All songs composed by Joe Holiday
Joe Holiday - Bass, Vocals, Duduk, various instruments Cherie Chooljian - Keyboards, Background vocals Miles Tune - Percussion Alex Garcia - Woodwinds. Left Side Adam Mick - Woodwinds, Right Side except Lonely Town Adam Mick - Sax