When the first song begins on Juice’s album Hit The Ground Running, they could be any other rock band on the radio today. There’s a catchy beat on an electric guitar, Tom Hanley begins singing and you know it’s going to be fun to listen to, but it isn’t overly remarkable. However, that changes only a few seconds later. Suddenly, a heavy drum beat kicks in, a trumpet starts and what began as a typical rock album becomes half rock ’n’ roll and half big-band jazz. Tom Hanley handles the vocals well and the percussion is strong, but Max Stanutz on trumpet and Kyle Woodard on saxophone bring a unique twist to this album.
Hit The Ground Running is the self-produced debut album from Toronto funk-rock band Juice who have performed at Indie Week Festival in Toronto, Sound of Music Festival in Burlington, the Beaches Jazz Festival at Woodbine Park in Toronto and the P.E.I. Jazz and Blues Festival. The band merges indie-rock with jazz and funk to produce a unique and engaging sound.
The big-band jazz sound is clear through the first track, “Wake Me Up,” and cycles back and forth with the band’s funkier side in a pop-influenced track “The City.” Most of the album’s 10 tracks, with just a few exceptions, begin with a very funk-inspired sound, like “Never Know” and “Two Brothers,” before returning to that big jazz sound — and back to funk and back to jazz. The album’s title track “Hit The Ground Running” comes halfway into the album and blends the two sides of funk and jazz in a song that will get your feet tapping every time, if not outright dancing.
Although there are a couple of slow songs and one folk-rock song at the end that is unlike the rest of the album, it is nevertheless fun from beginning to end.