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A citizen of Music City (Nashville), Arkansas-native James Hollihan is quite the musical Renaissance man. On The Funky Misfits he takes all of the credits: composer, arranger, and performer on all instruments. The results are a very smart collection of urbane contemporary jazz a la the Rippingtons, the Crusaders, and Spyro Gyra, except way better behaved. While a good deal of contemporary jazz is at best banal, Mr. Hollihan infuses his music with a good-natured personality, a compositional aptitude for writing nuclear hooks, and a well-educated ear for a great tune.
The disc opens with the title cut, a neo-funk piece that demonstrates Mr. Hollihan’s complete arsenal of talent. Hollihan deftly uses tight rhythms and clean guitar and keyboard lines for the perimeter of the vehicle to show off his Wes Montgomery/George Benson/Pat Martino-influenced playing. Mr. Hollihan’s global use of electronics is reminiscent of Stevie Wonder. That is the type of facility he brings to the table. More of the same is encountered on "Groove Deville," with the addition of organ and piano to the showcase. The groove is very much in evidence, with Latin and Caribbean strands winding in and out of the song’s structure. Hollihan’s sleek guitar is ever present, grounding his style.
The Funky Misfits
contains these and other delights: "Across the Desert Sky" with its steel drum vibe, the easy stroll of "The Hush of Love," and beautiful ballad "The Waltz of the Leaves" make this recording something special. Within a popular music environment that dumbs down all of the music around it, it is very nice to encounter a recording like The Funky Misfits that can rub up against the popular aesthetic with out picking up any of its stink. This recording is highly recommended.