Joe Holiday | Somebody Else’s Nightmare | Strength and Kindness

Joe Holiday – Bass, Vocals, Duduk | Cherie Chooljian – Keyboards, Background vocals | Miles Tune – Percussion | Alex Garcia – Woodwinds. Left Side | Adam Mick – Woodwinds, Right Side except Lonely Town Joe Holiday – Vocals and various Instruments | Adam Mick – Sax

Recorded and mixed at Prairie Sun Recording Studios. Mastered at Fantasy Studios Cherie Chooljian. Producer Joe Holiday. Arranger, Composer of Music and Lyrics, Artwork ©2014 Joe Holiday

Tracklist: 1. Destination Nowhere [5:05]  2. Yard Full of Joes [4:25]  3. Worker Bees [5:17]  4. Strength and Kindness [4:56] 5. The Light Will Show the Way [6:25]  6. Drones [4:58]  7. Generic Happy Song [3:47]  8. Snake Hair [7:54] 9. Lonely Town [5:18]  10. Again Dawn [4:21]



by Joe Holiday, Composer

As the bandleader my job is to develop a musical style, compose in that style and guide the interpretation of the compositions. The goal for this project was to perform music that was both written in “parts” and also meant for improvisation. “Parts” music is played by reading notes on a page; this can sometimes be complex and can require much concentration. It is found in many types of music including classical, pop, musical theater, big band and more. The challenge is to make the music sound alive and fresh every performance even though the musician has performed it the say way hundreds of times. With Somebody Else’s Nightmare, some of the “parts” change from performance to performance – for example, some compositions demand that the musicians improvise their own melody. To do this, they must listen closely to what the others are doing, and adjust. During performance, chord patterns might change. Also, I might cue in new sections while the piece is evolving, much like an audible called from the quarterback in football. In my mind, this is musical fun for both player and listener. In an effort to fuse the intention of the compositions with the result, here are some of my thoughts about the pieces:

Destination Nowhere 

One of my favorite compositional techniques is to write a phrase then repeat it, changing only the bass notes. This way, the chords and melody take on a whole new meaning. In this example, a repeating C major chord is played in the begnning section while the bass continually changes the root of the chord. When we performs live, I might change these bass notes and vocal line, but the new progression continues to work beneath the repeating keyboard pattern.


Yard Full of Joes

On a break between sets, I often jot down a tune for the next set, write it out on cocktail napkins and give it to the band. I keep the ones that I think work well. This is one of those “cocktail napkin” tunes. Regarding the title of the song: if you had a yard full of Joes (perish the thought), this Boogaloo would be the song they would be dancing to…

Worker Bees 

(from the Bee Suite) – In Russia, which I was fortunate to visit in the 1980s, workers seemed to be honored. In this piece I imagined the worker bees doing their job day in day out. I also imagined an ancient tribe of hardworking people who tended their sacred bees while singing to them as they honored their mutual work. I invented the “bee language” to reflect this. Musically the piece is composed of one-chord vamps with small cued sections separating them. This allowing the musicians a bit of a breather where they don’t have to read so much and can just play

Strength and Kindness

This bass line, borrowed from the Cedar Walton tune “Bolivia”, has stuck with me. It is elegant and perfectly designed for a bass, open strings sixths and dominant seventh notes. The intent for this song was to use this line throughout the piece while changing the harmony. Here, the A section is open for the horns to improvise a melody.

The Light Will Show the Way 

I absorbed poetry and jazz while sneaking into the San Francisco North Beach nightclubs as a teenager. Today’s rap is to me an evolution of this tradition. This is my expression of it.


Drones (from the Bee Suite)

This speaks of the sadness of being a drone hearing their call and realizing their purpose. As the queen leaves the hive for the first and last time flying miles straight up in the air, the drones follow to mate with her. Then they return to the hive where their one and only job is done. The harmonic energy towards the end of the piece evokes their moment of joy. Then they go back to being a drone.

Generic Happy Song 

At times I have been teased – by both players and audience members, that I play and write too many sad songs. In response to them, the patterns and phrases in this piece say: HAPPY!

Snake Hair

l picked up an Armenian double reed flute called a Duduk, and decided to learn it and write a piece around it. For the next round of compositions I am planning on writing Middle Eastern-fusion-Dixieland music featuring Duduk, Clarinet and Banjo. Stay tuned.

Lonely Town

I’ve always loved standards. The world at large decides which tunes eventually become standards. They become part of our lives, enjoyed by generations to come. Lonely Town has some elements a standard. A few nice phrases, hopefully, a memorable melody. It follows the typical AABA structure of countless standard tunes. It was composed from a warm-up exercise. This self-created exercise consists of playing a complex bass pattern while singing a melody to compliment the bass part. I may do this for hours, sometimes stopping to write out a few ideas. This song was born from one of those ideas.

Again Dawn

Life goes on. Many times we ouch for something to look forward to. This is the sound of the promise of a better tomorrow. This composition was inspired by the final scene of the film Black Orpheus in which the child picks up the father’s guitar and plays so that the sun might rise once more.


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5 thoughts on “Joe Holiday | Somebody Else’s Nightmare | Strength and Kindness

  1. Somebody Else’s Nightmare sounds like the name of a band that offers some type of very loud, edgy, brash, in-your-face rock: perhaps metal, perhaps industrial, perhaps punk, perhaps grunge. But the Sonoma, California-based Somebody Else’s Nightmare don’t sound anything like that. Strength and Kindness is not an album that is easy to pin down stylistically: this 52-minute CD doesn’t fit neatly into one particular category. But if one had to have a brief description of what it is that they do, the most appropriate would be “an appealing mixture of fusion, post-bop, soft rock, adult contemporary and soul-jazz.” A variety of direct or indirect influences assert themselves on this 2014 release, from Spyro Gyra, the Yellowjackets and McCoy Tyner to Paul Simon, Steely Dan and Michael Franks. On the vocal offerings (which include “Destination Nowhere” and the melancholy “Lonely Town”), it is clear that they appreciate the hipper, more creative side of 1970s/early 1980s soft rock and adult contemporary. “The Light Will Show the Way,” another vocal tune, combines jazzy alternative rap along the lines of Digable Planets, the Roots or Kuf Knotz with hints of vibist/singer Roy Ayers’ late 1970s/early 1980s recordings (which makes sense because many alternative rappers have sampled Ayers).

    But most of this album is instrumental jazz, and Somebody Else’s Nightmare turn to different areas of jazz for inspiration. “Worker Bees,” “Again Dawn” and “Generic Happy Song” are exuberant examples of fusion: they successfully combine the electric muscle of rock and funk with the improvisatory freedom of jazz, and they aren’t unlike
    the type of instrumentals that Spyro Gyra or the Yellowjackets would have come up with during the 1980s. Although “Worker Bees” briefly incorporates some scattered vocals, it is for all intents and purposes an instrumental.

    The driving “Snake Hair,” meanwhile, would not be out of place on an album by Scott Henderson & Tribal Tech. But the mood on the eerie “Drones” and the title track is more post-bop.

    “A Yard Full of Joes” is also a jazz instrumental, although it isn’t fusion or post-bop but rather, an infectious, funky soul-jazz groove along the lines of the Crusaders. That is, the Crusaders of the 1970s. During the 1960s (back when Wayne Henderson, Joe Sample and the rest of the Crusaders were still calling themselves the Jazz Crusaders), the Crusaders were often compared to Art Blakey & the Jazz Messengers. But in the 1970s, the Crusaders shifted their focus to more of an electric jazz-funk approach and tried to increase their visibility in the R&B market. And it is that side of the Crusaders that Somebody Else’s Nightmare brings to mind on “A Yard Full of Joes.”

    The lineup on Strength and Kindness consists of head honcho Joe Holiday (who produced and arranged the album and wrote all the material) on bass and vocals, Cherie Chooljian on electric keyboards and background vocals, Alex Garcia and Adam Mick on woodwinds, and Miles Tune on percussion. All of these musicians clearly know their way around their instruments, and they sound like they are quite comfortable with the album’s unpredictable nature. Being this eclectic and unpredictable is not easy: imagine being in a band where you are required to play soft rock or adult contemporary one minute and fusion, post-bop or soul-jazz the next. One needs a lot of skill and a broad-minded attitude in order to pull that off and do it well. However, being all over the place musically can be fun if the musicians have the talent for it, and the members of Somebody Else’s Nightmare sound like they are having a great deal of fun on Strength & Kindness. They don’t sound intimidated by having so much variety on one album: whether they are playing fusion on “Snake Hair,” “Worker Bees,” “Generic Happy Song” and “Again Dawn” or soft rock/adult contemporary on “Destination Nowhere,” Holiday and his colleagues sound like they are having a good time throughout this album. And the fact that Strength and Kindness is as far-reaching as it is does not mean that it sounds unfocused or confused. Somebody Else’s Nightmare give the impression that they knew exactly what they were doing when they went into the studio to record this disc.

    Strength and Kindness is a promising effort from these residents of the California Wine Country.

  2. When I read the name of the band I was not thinking a Jazz group, I was thinking more along the lines of Alice Cooper. Names aside SEN is a Jazz group with a brand new album.

    So not being a huge Jazz fan, or really any kind of Jazz fan, I thought I hope this music doesn’t give me a headache, as I cued up the MP3 files.
    Now I must say, in the name of full discloser, the reason I don’t care for Jazz is simply that most Jazz musicians are really really good – so good in fact that a simpleton like me gets confused and can’t follow what is going on or what will come next. In short, my distaste is fueled by envy. I am an old Punk rock drummer and frankly anything that isn’t in 4/4 time confuses me. So I took a couple of aspirin to ward off any headaches caused by my brain being forced to work too much and sat down to listen to SEN’s music.

    What music it is! This group can play. I mean really play. What I heard reminded me a bit of what I heard the first time I listened to Jeff Beck’s Blow By Blow. That is, I felt a combination of awe and confusion. Awe because it became obvious after a few notes that the man could make his instrument do ANYTHING he wanted. Confusion because what he wanted to do seemed so chaotic, compared to the straightforwardness of Rock and Roll – granted I’m sure there is nothing chaotic to Jeff Beck on Blow By Blow, nor is there anything chaotic on Strength & Kindness to SEN – but it seems chaotic to me which makes me envy them all the more!

    Here is the band’s notes regarding the song Destination Nowhere
    “One of my favorite compositional techniques is to write a phrase then repeat it, changing only the bass notes. This way, the chords and melody take on a whole new meaning. In this example, a repeating C major chord is played in the beginning section while the bass continually changes the root of the chord. When we performs live, I might change these bass notes and vocal line, but the new progression continues to work beneath the repeating keyboard pattern.”

    All I can say is “Yeah I like that technique too.” (And then hope no one asks me to define a C major chord – all the guys I ever played with simply described the chords – “Dude, that one where you have to stretch you finger so far it feels like it will snap.” )

    So what is the bottom line?
    This is a remarkably well made album by a group of very talented musicians. My personal favorite track on the album is: Yard Full of Joes – first of all the drummer lays down a funky beat that is just odd enough to be confusing, but not so out there as to make my brain hurt. Secondly the bass is just bad ass – then the horns come in and honest to God it blows my mind – I find myself grooving to what they are doing with a goofy smile on my face.

    The title track Strength and Kindness is also a groove. I am reminded of Steely Dan (One of the few Prog bands I actually like) until the horns kick in then I realize this song is pure SEN. I have to say I enjoy listening to the horns so much that my envy gives way to honest to goodness admiration – well done guys.

    So, if you are looking to expand your collection with some music that is designed to make you think, but not to the point that the music becomes a chore to listen to, then by all means pick up a copy of Strength and Kindness. My collection is richer because of it.

  3. Fortuitously, and also quite truthfully, mentions Zawinul in its ‘Recommended if You Like’ section under Somebody Else’s Nightmare because a track called “Worker Bees” features a great Jaco Pastorius-like bass line – much like the sort he used to regularly contribute to the band Weather Report. (This, of course, was a Zawinul-led act). Strength and Kindness is a solid collection of jazz-fusion songs.

    You usually think of electronic instrumentation when considering jazz-fusion music. However, this album’s title cut begins with an acoustic bass line, which is later joined by drums, then saxophone and piano. It’s a swinging, straight ahead jazz tune and quite likeable. While Zawinul was best known for his jazz-fusion experimentation with Weather Report, that group’s music was much more rooted in traditional jazz music than much of what’s come after in the name of jazz-fusion. Zawinul, as you may recall, was also involved in Miles Davis’ early fusion explorations, and when he (and Zawinul) composed and performed jazz fusion music together, it was not merely the instrumental pop we too often hear today. Instead, these skilled players were merely transferring their jazz chops onto electric instruments, while the complicated creativity remained the same. This is why Weather Report’s music was (and is) so respected. This was quality music that just happened to be played on instruments more closely associated with rock and pop genres.

    While Somebody Else’s Nightmare is a jazz band, this act is also not above experimenting with styles not usually associated with jazz, as well. Take “The Light Will Show The Way,” for instance, includes a rapped vocal on the verses. Performed over a funky jazz groove that also features a nice electric piano solo, this tune reveals how jazz music and rap have a lot in common. When you think about it, there was also a strong association between beat poetry and bebop back in the 50s, and rap music is, in many ways, an extension of early musical-poetry experiments.

    There are times when song titles and the music they’re matched to are perfectly placed together. Other times, though, the name of a song doesn’t sound much at all like the sounds. One such instance here is “Drones.” When drones come to mind, unmanned warplanes are conjured up in the mind. Therefore, you’d expect the music to be powerful and destructive. Not so, however, with this cut. Instead, a rather gentle, thoughtful tune is placed with this warring song title. It’s surprising, to say the least.

    –Note from Joe,

    Drones is one of the pieces from the Bee Suite, a series of 9 compositions about the life of the Bee. Here is what I wrote in the liner notes – “This speaks of the sadness of being a drone, hearing their call and realizing their purpose. As the queen leaves the hive for the first and last time flying miles straight up in the air, the drones follow to mate with her. They wait for this one day and their job is done. The harmonic energy towards the end of the piece evokes their moment of joy.” Thats why at the end of the piece, you can hear them buzzing.—

    Back to the review

    In contrast, that slightly snarky “Generic Happy Song” is a title that snugly fits. It’s an upbeat song that comes off a little like a TV show theme song. It not only features a fine saxophone solo, but also sports a rocking electric guitar solo.
    This brings us to the band name: Someone Else’s Nightmare, which reads like the title to a Halloween-related film. The music found with, though, is mostly straight up jazz. That may be a nightmarish thought to young people that only like pop music, say, or dudes really into heavy metal. It’s not nightmarish –at least not on the surface.
    There’s a whole lot of jazzy variety on this album that will likely please many different types of jazz music fans. While it’s fusion music, it’s also high quality music. Therefore, even stubborn jazz traditionalists will at least respect the musicianship, even though it may not match their particular preferences.

    The album title is a great one, Strength and Kindness. It takes a lot of strength to be kind, simply because many times when we’re kind to others, these others do not reciprocate with similar kindness. It’s extremely difficult to find a jazz album that pleases everybody, but one supposes the new Somebody Else’s Nightmare comes pretty close to hitting that mark.

  4. Real instruments! Funk/Jazz fusion! Miles-style-post-bop! Oh my!

    Strength and Kindness, a versatile, multi-genre album by California based band, Someone Else’s Nightmare, embodies its title perfectly—the nuanced differences between strength and kindness, but also how the two traits, and more generally, all of our human idiosyncrasies can blend together and illuminate each other. This mostly instrumental album doesn’t box itself into any corner, and instead, invites everyone into the middle of the room to dance. I can’t think of a universe where this band, or this album, would be anyone’s nightmare. From jazz to funk to bop, from profound lyric to call and response instrumental improvisation, there’s bound to be at least one part of this album that is, instead, of everyone’s dreams.

    The first track, “Destination Nowhere,” establishes the musical world we’re dealing with—not the usual synthesized instrumentals that coin the modern ‘fusion’ genre, but an acoustic wonderland of skill. Beginning with a solid bass line, this opening tune playfully layers on sets of seemingly improvised piano riffs, a swing drum beat, and of course, the staple of contemporary jazz, the saxophone.

    The album shifts into R&B funk genre with “Yard Full of Joes,” “Worker Bees,” and “Generic Happy Song.” “Yard Full of Joes” features a bluesy electric guitar riff on top of a rock-like drum beat, which, when layered with saxophone, organ-synth, flute synth, and eventually bass, spin the track out into a party of instrumental overlaps, grounded and always lassoed back with a sax solo.

    “Worker Bees,” on the other hand, starts in on its party immediately. I can barely tell which instrument arrives first—synth keyboards, sax, a furious and fast drum beat, and flute burst on the scene at the same time, though like “Yard Full of Joes,” the sax solos ground the tune firmly in jazz; the ‘fusion’ are the sporadic instrumental flights of fancy, like around 2:20, when the synth increases in volume and technique, and vocals suddenly enter for the first time on the album!

    The title track “Strength and Kindness” takes us back into a more exclusively-jazz genre piece, beginning with a 70s-R&B like drum beat, only to become deeply felt jazz the moment the harmonizing horn section arrives.

    “The Light Will Show the Way” keeps a great deal of that jazzy feeling throughout, enough so that it doesn’t feel like the same kind of fusion as the other fusion pieces mentioned. However, this track very quickly layers on a prophetic lyrical rap—“peel away the mask/and consider amends/drown the sorrows/so you might cleanse/because I am awake/there is infinite life”—and the timbre of the chorus vocals themselves hint at reggae as well. But the jazz always re-emerges. With…you guessed it, saxophone.

    The album flies back into fusion again with the misty, ominous “Drones,” the punchy ditty “Generic Happy Song,” and the bulldozing “Snake Hair.”
    With its slow, music-box-like keyboard and flute/sax duet, “Drones” is probably the most shocking tune on the album, not only because it’s much more tender than what its title suggests (a certain aggression) but also because of how it evolves from its mild, sweet beginning beginning to its chorus of bee buzzes at the end.

    “Generic Happy Song” and “Snake Hair” both incorporate more rock into their fusions—“Generic Happy Song” through its electric guitar, impressive saxophone solo that sounds like it could easily belong on a Dave Matthews Band record, and pop-ish melody; “Snake Hair” through its driving drum beat—fast paced and heavy—as well as the continuous trade offs of focus between bass solo, horn sectionals, saxophone solos, synthesizer riff, and eventually the eruption of mismatched sounds toward the end.

    “Lonely Town” takes the album down an energetic peg again, plunging into the R&B genre, both in rhythm and instrumentation—synth keyboard lines, sexy slow drum beat, and sultry sax—not to mention the gorgeous, deep, melodic vocals. Probably my favorite song on the album, not just because it’s so old-time R&B jazz (which is my favorite genre of all), but because it’s done so incredibly well, complete with a chorus of vocal echoes at the end, finishing the song off like a modern, torchy version of something Sam Cooke might have done.

    “Again Dawn,” last but not least, ties the whole album up in a swirl of genres and instruments. Sans vocals, this track dances us to the end of the compilation with gusto and skill, somehow tying the best strings of each genre neatly together through bouts of improvisation, with, again, spot on skill and interpretation.

    That, of course, is what makes Someone Else’s Nightmare most interesting: regardless of your favorite genre of the ones that get thrown into the fusion mixing pot on this album, you have to give these guys credit for mastering every single one separately, as well as when they’re woven together. Strength and Kindness an incredible soup for almost anyone, because even if you don’t like potatoes, you can spoon up plenty of bites with just peas or carrots or chicken; if you don’t like R&B, there’s jazz; not into jazz, there’s rock; none of those appeal, well, when you throw jazz, rock, R&B, blues, and bop together, it makes a whole new genre, so have a taste—you’re bound to ask for more.

    Rating: 5 stars out of 5

  5. Joe Holiday’s band comes up with an array of styles. It comes back to a common thread, resembling Steely Dan by the time of Aja. I don’t find myself appreciating the work ethic of Russian workers as lamenting their lack of freedom. But this isn’t about political discourse. Holiday would rather reflect on the mating and work habits of bees. The saxophone is solid, taking “Yard Full of Joes” to another level. Rap and Eastern fusion provide vehicles for tracks. The title track is also a highlight. The spirituality evident on the “Light Will Show the Way” is admirable and refreshing. The lyrics are family friendly. This is an asset, which doesn’t get enough attention these days. The music does make it’s way into fun territory often enough. It may not qualify as dance music, yet it gets you out of your chair all the same. There’s a sense of spiritual fulfillment coming through the tracks.

    The music doesn’t become background noise. It does make good dinner music. It can also serve as an example of how thought provoking and compelling modern jazz can become. It’s even apparent to a Louis Armstrong fan. The number of memorable tracks could be higher. Still the album isn’t marred by duds either. Nothing eve seems like filler. It all comes off as inspired. Now let’s find some more nature aspects to reflect on. The movie lover in me is compelled to keep exploring, as well after reading his comments. Holiday is cognizant some may find a melancholy quality to his music. He has an appreciation for standards of which a substantial number qualify as weepers.

    There’s even a happy track, which Joe seems to find obligatory in his efforts to relate to his audience. Commendations are in order for giving the people what they want without pandering.

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