Joël Dilley’s music is a study in contrasts. As comfortable with Mozart, Mahler, and the twelve-tone row as he is with be-bop and hip-hop, he is totally committed to the bassist’s traditional supporting role within the rhythm section; yet, when it comes time to solo, his bass sings like the human voice. In his compositions, you’ll find meticulously arranged orchestration balanced by magical moments of improvisation. And filtered through a soundtrack teeming with urban life, you’ll find an intuitive connection with nature, as Hannah Castellaw of WOMANSPACE observes on Dilley’s first album, RIVER OF HOPE: "A deeply passionate and personal work....He deftly translates all the colors, sounds, and feelings associated with his life experiences into music....His rich bass is the stuff of heart beats, ocean waves, and other natural earth rhythms.
Joël Dilley himself is also study in contrasts. A reserved manner belies an intensely passionate nature, and seriousness is balanced by a close-to-the-surface sense of humor. A private person who feels most at home performing in front of large groups of people, a man of deep spirituality who has played in some decidedly unspiritual places, he is as intimately familiar with the desolate landscapes of South Texas as he is with the graffiti-splattered inner cities of Chicago and New York; and he has friends among the homeless as well as among the politicians and professionals who frequent the upscale clubs where he regularly plays
Yet even those closest to him will be the first to admit how little he reveals about himself. For that, you must listen to his music; only there does the story unfold. You will hear the authoritative articulation of groove he learned from his early studies with Rufus Reid and Stafford James; the laid-back phrasing of melody he learned from recording projects with Willie Nelson; the elegant, soulful wail echoing from the gigs he played with Eddie "Cleanhead" Vinson; the disciplined and focused approach to standards from his experiences with legendary jazz guitarists Herb Ellis and Tal Farlow; and the sensitive and meticulous ensemble playing he honed while performing with area symphony orchestras. You will hear the romance and rhythm of the Latin culture in which he grew up. And you will hear the clean execution and the sense of groove that have made Joël Dilley a first-call session player. Above all, you will hear the tragedy and the joy, the irony and the humor that make up his and all our lives.