Michael J. West

Michael J.’s Contributions

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06/27/15    Overdue Ovation

Overdue Ovation for Jim Snidero

Contractual motivation

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06/25/15    Albums

Jamison
Jamison Ross

The debut album by the winner of the 2012 Thelonious Monk International Jazz Drums Competition isn’t what jazz fans will expect. Jamison Ross, it turns out, is a singer as well, and on Jamison he’s a singer first. But once the confusion subsides, there remains...

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06/09/15    Albums

Mockroot
Tigran Hamasyan

Tigran Hamasyan’s music exists in its own universe, and on Mockroot that means distancing itself even from the pianist’s eccentric self-described “electro-acoustic Armenian rock.” The Armenian-American’s sixth album holds on to the rock trappings in some...

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05/23/15    Albums

Swing Makes You Happy!
George Gee Swing Orchestra

“Swing music is a living, growing, and evolving art form,” says bandleader George Gee in his liner notes for Swing Makes You Happy! , featuring his 11-piece Swing Orchestra. He could hardly have produced a better example of that sentiment: This album is...

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05/22/15    Albums

The Undying Spirit
E.J. Strickland Quintet

There’s a tendency on drummer-led albums for the listener’s ear to focus on the drums no matter what they’re doing. E.J. Strickland turns that tendency into inevitability on his second album, The Undying Spirit . It opens with an unaccompanied virtuoso solo...

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05/17/15    Features

Rez Abbasi: Defusing Fusion

Giving jazz-rock classics a modern acoustic treatment

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05/15/15    Albums

Coming of Age
Ben Williams

Though he wrote much of his 2011 debut, State of Art , bassist Ben Williams’ new album, Coming of Age , is really his arrival as a composer. Nine of the disc’s 11 tunes are his, and they attempt (and accomplish) some tricky stuff. But he wraps these ideas...

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05/12/15    Albums

Trio and Duet
Anthony Braxton

Forty years later, 1974’s Trio and Duet remains one of Anthony Braxton’s best albums. If anything, it’s even more compelling today because of its weight in Braxtonian history. The trio (side one of the original album, and what would eventually become Braxton’s...

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04/25/15    Albums

Orphic Machine
Ben Goldberg

With its childlike melody, twinkling vibraphone and repeated lyrics, the opening section of “Reading,” which begins Orphic Machine , clarinetist-composer Ben Goldberg’s album of nonet settings for the poetry of Allen Grossman, is annoyingly precious. That...

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04/21/15    Albums

Live at Monterey Jazz Festival
Joe Lovano & Dave Douglas Sound Prints

Sound Prints’ co-leaders, saxophonist Joe Lovano and trumpeter Dave Douglas, both solo on the band’s debut album, Live at Monterey Jazz Festival . But the real meat of the recording, and of the band, is their interplay: harmony, counterpoint, call-and-response...

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04/14/15    Albums

Main Street
Jim Snidero

A determinedly straightahead alto saxophonist, Jim Snidero staffs his Main Street quartet with determinedly adventurous young musicians—and gets them swinging along with him. It’s no surprise to hear that pianist Fabian Almazan, bassist Linda Oh and drummer...

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03/27/15    Features

The Trombone: The Most Promising Instrument on the Bandstand?

Historically overshadowed, it's back in the game

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03/11/15    Albums

Akua Dixon
Akua Dixon

Akua Dixon made a baffling choice in self-titling her second album, which features the cellist in a string quartet, plus special guests. It’s a declamatory presentation, but what is she declaiming when she solos exactly three times on the entire album? That...

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03/04/15    Albums

Children of the Sun
Joe Sample & NDR Bigband

The late pianist Joe Sample’s final work is also easily his most ambitious: an album-length suite exploring the emotional landscape of slaves in the Middle Passage, written for Germany’s 20-plus-piece NDR Bigband. At times the ambition is too much for its...

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03/03/15    Albums

Intents and Purposes
Rez Abbasi Acoustic Quartet

The conceit behind Intents and Purposes is a nifty one: seminal fusion tunes, rendered in the gentler textures of acoustic guitar (Rez Abbasi), vibraphone (Bill Ware), bass (Stephan Crump) and drums (Eric McPherson). Abbasi’s Acoustic Quartet makes its point...

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02/19/15    Features

Kenny Barron: Icon-in-Residence

At 71, representing the pinnacle of the jazz-piano tradition

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About Michael J. West

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Michael J. West joined the JazzTimes community on Jun 13, 2008