Guitarist & producer Joe Olnick explores new directions in modern instrumental music. With eight albums of independently released original material, his work generally falls into two different genres: rock/funk/jazz with his band as well as solo ambient. Two singles he produced with his band hit the US college radio charts ("Funky Traffic" and "Downtown").
His latest project is a solo ambient album, Wink of An Eye, released worldwide on April 24, 2020. Celebrating the 5 year anniversary of the "Ambient Class of 2015", when Joe Olnick released three ambient albums in a single year, Wink Of An Eye takes short sections from one of those albums (Bright Paintings) and completely transforms the pieces into spacemusic that goes even deeper, utilizing advanced processing techniques only recently made available. Surprisingly, there are no keyboards or synthesizers anywhere, despite the synth-like soundscapes that this album creates. The original sources included Olnick on guitar, with Stew Bradley adding some subtle percussion. Mastered by the legendary Robert Rich.
According to Olnick, "This was one of the most unique albums that I've ever worked on, and I'm very pleased with it. Taking what had been a guitar-based rock/ambient hybrid and radically treating it to the point that it became something artistically unique on its own (as ambient spacemusic) was unexpected, but the tools available to the modern musician are evolving. I think it's important to relentlessly keep searching for new sounds, and new ways of working."
Previous ambient albums include Bright Paintings, Live At The Candy Factory, and Free Atmosphere.
The Joe Olnick Band has a rocking vibe of “avant-jam” and fusion at times similar to Medeski, Martin & Wood, New Mastersounds, Phish, and John Scofield. The band's latest release, Iguana, tells the musical story of a misunderstood hero who overcomes challenges to eventually get what he is looking for. It is their most rock-oriented recording project so far.
Jason Velazquez at THE GREYLOCK GLASS said “Olnick’s latest effort is a great instrumental collection of cosmic experimentalia, jazz-infused folk-rock, and super-tight funk rock." Andy Goldfinger at 92.7 KOCF FM noted “Joe’s album has that feel of cool. It crosses the boundaries of genre and lets the listener just feel the music.” Jeff Collins at THE ROCK JUKEBOX called Iguana "A really wonderful album. One of the best of the year."
His previous album Downtown received unique feedback from a range of journalists. MUSIC STREET JOURNAL called his music “classy.” THE MODERN BEAT heard “….a refreshingly original approach to the genre that’s never afraid to step outside of its confines. I could see anyone from fans of Coltrane to Clinton getting a rise out of this instrumental nuthouse.” MUSIC YOU CAN USE felt Joe’s “trippy, wah-ed out guitar work” was a “glorious reminder of Jimi Hendrix, Tommy Bolin’s funkier jams, or the crazy German rock from the late ‘60s/early ‘70s.” BURNED OUT BORDERS proclaimed that “any fans of hard-hitting, rock-leaned instrumental music with a progressive, experimental backbone will completely fall in love with this group.”
Live concerts, frequently in a multimedia context, rely on using exciting improvisational techniques that expand on themes from the recordings. Every show is a unique experience.
Joe Olnick’s lifetime in music includes playing sax, keyboards, drums, as well as guitar & bass, and working as a recording engineer. He has played hundreds of shows in various bands over the years, while always recording original material on his own. In 2012, he released his first CD, and has continued releasing albums from ambient to jazz/rock genres. Inspired by artists such as Miles Davis, Brian Eno, and Nels Cline, he also works primarily with his band but keeps creatively fresh over the years by mixing in some ambient projects. According to Joe, "Sometimes it's what is not being played that really is the message. The space around the notes, the mood, the effect that it creates, has always been something I've been interested in, whether it's ambient, rock, jazz, funk, whatever. I just like to create cool moments and get them out to folks."