James Hollihan: The Funky Misfit (2004)
“I’ve always had a passion for jazz,” allows multi-instrumentalist and producer James Hollihan. “I’ve always loved the music of composers like Henry Mancini, Michel Legrand, Johnny Mandel, and the one and only Juan Garcia Esquivel. It was only a matter of time before all those influences came bubbling up.”
Hollihan is no stranger to a recording studio, having performed with Russ Taff, Phil Keaggy and Amy Grant and produced sessions by Taff, Michelle Shocked and Marshall Chapman. Hollihan owns a Grammy for Taff’s album Under Their Influence album, which he recorded in his own basement. He composed, arranged, performed, recorded, mixed and produced every bubbly Funky Misfit note himself.
On the first two tracks, “The Funky Misfit” and “Groove DeVille,” Hollihan’s sounds and rhythms pop with colorful, charming futuristic-retro lounge kitsch. His guitar work so sounds like Grant Green’s on the opening title cut, a melodic serpentine that creeps through surprising twists and starts, and his tight mid-song solo opens with what sounds like bubbling guitar laughter. “Groove DeVille” is precisely that, a luxury sedan groove with more (Grant) Green reflections from Hollihan’s guitar.
The rest of this is smooth and soft, though several similar-sounding tracks near the middle sort of run into each other. Hollihan has a velvet touch not only as a guitarist but also as a pianist, as in “Solitude” and “The Waltz of the Leaves.” He returns to shades of guitarist Green in “The Hush of Love,” which sets such a romantic mood that it almost aches for Luther Vandross vocals.
The sound and feel of Brazil seem to dominate the remainder. “It Came From Brazil” not only sambas in the hypnotic rhythms of Jobim but also the keyboard sounds of Eumir Deodato, sparkling cool water splashed on the rocks in an interstellar spacejazz lounge. “Across the Desert Sky” and the soft waves of rhythm that lap upon “Cypress Shores” also whisper with the romantic, languid sounds and rhythms of Brazil, as Hollihan’s acoustic guitar sparkles through their tropical mix like brilliant starlight.
Track Listing: The Funky Misfit; Groove DeVille; Across the Desert Sky; The Hush of Love; The Waltz of the Leaves; Cypress Shores; It Came From Brazil; Solitude; Cafe Blue; Angel Noir
Personnel: Composed, arranged, performed, recorded, and produced by James Hollihan