Piano tuning, a strange obsession with the word "gove," as in to stare stupidly, and a creative music orientation that touches on both the the New England Conservatory of Music and Captain Beefheart are all important factors in the life of Jim Connolly. He has to be considered one of the major original musical forces in the coastal mecca of Santa Barbara, CA, a statement that some cynical residents might greet with a sneer. Truly the supply of such types -- original musical forces, not cynics -- would not exactly be considered legion in Santa Barbara. Connolly's geographical base puts him somewhere in between the avant-garde scenes in San Francisco and Los Angeles, but his individuality would stand out through any sort of geographical placement. He is one of the rarest of composers, the sort who can craft singular musical works which both involve and are engaging to improvisers with their own instrumental voice.
"The day that I left school was the same day that I began writing music," Connolly seems fond of pointing out in his own publicity, usually in tandem with a chain of events that involves both of the cultural landmarks mentioned at the outset. The school he left was the New England Conservatory, which he claims he attended just long enough to find out about the music of Captain Beefheart. Unlike the Captain, Connolly has never required an assistant to put his musical ideas onto paper and furthermore never felt it necessary to keep the entire membership of his ensembles under modified house arrest save for runs to the grocery store. Such a situation would not have been tolerated by the free-spirited players in Connolly's Gove County Philharmonic, an extended ensemble that combines aspects of both jazz and classical music and has recorded several CDs released on the independent PFmentum label.
It is also an ensemble with the word "gove" in it, leading to speculation among some critics that Gove County has something to do with Santa Barbara, which it does not. There actually is no such thing as Gove County. There is a town name Gove in Kansas, not California. Neither Connolly, his wife, nor anyone in his close circle of companions and associates is from Gove, KS. Gove, however, also has a life of its own as both a proper name and a verb. It is, in fact, the maiden name of Connolly's wife, and due to its somewhat obscure meaning in the English language, it could be related to surnames such as Leer and Peeking. Besides sharing an in-joke with his spouse, Connolly seems to be using "Gove" to establish a sense of place, however, not to comment on people who stare at each other stupidly. At least that's the notion established in the title of one of this artist's major works, a suite entitled "The Circus Doesn't Stop at Gove."
Connolly had been composing his own music for nearly a quarter-of-a-century when this piece was released in 2000. He is also active as a bassist, performing in a variety of settings including classical, jazz, folk, and free improvisation. His collaborations include playing with the Nate Birkey Quintet on three discs, backing up his brother, songwriter Kevin Connolly, and gigging with Jeff Kaiser, Queen Mab, Michael Frey, the Plymouth Philharmonic, and Area 51. He has also written music for the Lit Moon Theater Company and the Gove County String Quartet, whose members like to gove at Connolly's scores in their weaker moments. Connolly has won several local awards for his theater music, crafting scores for Peer Gynt, Master and Margarita, and Hamlet. To support himself, Connolly also regularly begins and ends his day with the same two words that begin and end this biography: piano tuning.