May 2011

Janette West Group
Pony Boy Records

Seattle-based vocalist Janette West has been working up and down the West Coast for nearly four decades, variously fronting R&B, smooth-jazz and big-band outfits. Never, though, has West been better served than with her recently formed quartet comprising her husband, drummer Marty Tuttle, plus keyboardist Eric Verlinde, bassist Chuck Kistler and percussionist Ricardo Guity. This is a remarkably tight unit, rivaling the tautness of the Tierney Sutton Group. West is a first-rate swinger, comparable in style and gusto to Ernestine Anderson, though the warmth of her ballads is more reminiscent of Natalie Cole. Each group member is given plenty of room to stretch out and shine.

West is exceptionally gracious about sharing the spotlight. Verlinde demonstrates a masterfully elegant touch on “Only Trust Your Heart” and “I’m Glad There Is You,” and, on Hammond E, ably assists West in finessing an exuberant “Willow Weep for Me.” Tuttle and Guity steer a shimmering treatment of Stevie Wonder’s “Bird of Beauty.” But the two tracks that best showcase the group’s solidity are a gorgeously lithe “You Go to My Head” and a scintillating Afro-Cuban canter through “Love for Sale.”

Originally published in May 2011
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