Guitarist & producer Joe Olnick explores new directions in modern instrumental music. With nine 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").
The Joe Olnick Band's latest album, Nine Lives, was released on all streaming platforms and CD on February 17, 2023. They rock out for their ninth album, taking their jam-band vibes to new spaces. Especially noteworthy is their first ever cover song on any release, a unique take on the French band Air's "La Femme D'Argent" in addition to eight original songs.
Yes, there are nine songs for the ninth album with "nine" in the title. "I had no idea this happened until afterwards," according to Joe. "Just one of those amazing coincidences. It felt like The Twilight Zone when we found out!"
Joe reflected on the making of the album: “Feelings of rebirth, resilience, and newfound strength inevitably made it into the music. How could it not, especially when working with old friends after having gone through such scary times? We just had so much fun working on all kinds of grooves and sonic moods. This project was a very personal and emotional statement, for sure. After all that I had been through, the album sort of named itself!”
Incorporating an even more aggressive sound, the band spent many hours working live in the studio so that they could take their signature group improvisations to the next level. “It’s kind of like capturing lightning in a bottle when the magic happens,” Joe continues. ”One never knows exactly when it's going to occur, but it’s apparent on playback. From the foot tapping to the chills, it becomes obvious.”
“Working further on the recordings later, I found myself listening for the pure enjoyment of cranking them! There's nothing quite like grooving in the car with these punchy, energetic jams that capture so many different feelings. I’m forever grateful to have a band of compadres who are always up for trying something new musically whenever we want to. We can communicate in so many ways we’ve developed over the years that it’s like telepathy. They are the best!”
Musicians for this release are Joe Olnick – guitar/keyboards, Jamie Aston – bass, Jesse Edmunds – drums.
The band's previous release, the Hipster single, was an artistic statement on night life in the modern world, with a slinky, searching vibe. Also includes a dub version, in tribute to the roots dub master, King Tubby.
The Joe Olnick Band's previous album Iguana tells the musical story of a misunderstood hero who overcomes challenges to eventually get what he is looking for. Jason Velazquez at THE GREYLOCK GLASS called Iguana “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 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, taking place at such notable venues as World Cafe Live and Dawson Street Pub in Philadelphia, to art galleries and clubs of all kinds.
Joe's previous ambient project was a solo album, Wink of An Eye, released in 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. Mastered by the legendary Robert Rich.
Joe adds: "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.
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.
One of his driving concepts: "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."