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The Funky Misfit by James Hollihan

James Hollihan is a very talented composer, engineer, and musician. And his debut album, The Funky Misfit shows off all his talents brilliantly. He names Henry Mancini, Johnny Mandel, and Juan Garcia Esquivel (among others) as his influences, but he need not name them, as they (as well as other influences such as Stevie Wonder) are communicated through his music.

This is an outstanding effort all-around. The compositions as well as the improvisations are thought-out and logical without being totally predictable. Furthermore, Mr. Hollihan uses the languages and licks from the various genres he borrows them from to keep the music familiar yet at the same time original.

The Funky Misfit is mostly a groove/funk album. All parts are played and written my Mr. Hollihan. This leads to a distinctive sound throughout. All parts have certain uniformity and groove (although overdubbed). He does an extraordinary job of mixing all the different parts to one cohesive unit. Musically, it takes a little getting used to. As bands strive to be uniform and match each other’s sound, it is the different personalities of all the instruments that oftentimes make the music interesting. It is at first slightly unsettling to hear the flute solo with such similar articulation and improvisation lines as the guitar solo or organ solo. But what makes this album a success is that the articulation and improvisation is immaculate. Being the same across all parts works in this setting because the sameness is superior in its musicianship.

The title track is first on the album. It is a groove-based tune featuring flute (probably synthesized) and guitar (live). Mr. Hollihan sets up the tune with a bass introduction, and then adds more percussion, then flute and synth for the head. The instrumentation is interesting, the melody is catchy and the groove is entrancing. The flute and guitar trade solos with the head filling the gaps. Mr. Hollihan uses familiar language combined with creativity and humor to draw us in to his world.

All songs contain a similar combination of voices, from jazz-funk guitar to piano or guitar trio backed by strings. He keeps us captivated by giving us just enough to remain satiated but not so much that we can overindulge.

Although one can find faults with this album. For every path that Mr. Hollihan chose that another would have not, there are ten paths that many would not have even thought of traveling down that work brilliantly. A few of the songs were a little too long. The title track for instance, contains the head four times. Also, in many places horn parts could have taken the place of strings for a much better effect. Similarly, on "Hush of Love" the melody was played by guitar where a flugelhorn (or some similar sound) would have had a much more haunting result.

The Funky Misfit is truly an album of excellence and imagination. James Hollihan creates a world for himself where one mouth contains many tongues. It is a remarkable album for all its influences and ingenuity; an outstanding album for its musical excellence, and an enjoyable album for its accessibility and humor.

Additional Info

  • Artist / Group Name: James Hollihan
  • CD Title: The Funky Misfit
  • Genre: Contemporary Jazz / Modern
  • Year Released: 2004
  • Record Label: Nuevotron
  • Musicians: James Hollihan, composer, guitar, other instruments, arranger.
  • Rating: Four Stars
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