Michael J. West

Michael J.’s Contributions

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07/18/13    Albums

Transylvanian Concert
Lucian Ban/Mat Maneri

Who knew a song called “Harlem Bliss” could be so somber and disturbing? Incorporating lots of blues licks (especially in composer Lucian Ban’s piano turns), as well as motifs from “Body and Soul” and “Lonely Woman,” it’s also built on exceedingly dark harmonies...

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07/15/13    Albums

Oye!!! Live In Puerto Rico
Miguel Zenón & The Rhythm Collective

The deeper alto saxophonist Miguel Zenón goes into Puerto Rico’s musical legacy, the better his own music gets. Zenón’s exploration of his Afro-Caribbean roots has been a staple of his solo career since it began in the early 2000s, though it kicked into...

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06/26/13    Albums

Live Work & Play
Caroline Davis

Caroline Davis’ debut as a leader is her second appearance on record overall, so in that sense the Chicagoan comes out of nowhere. She arrives, however, with total self-confidence. There’s just an edge of coarseness in her alto sax, just enough to add bite...

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06/25/13    Albums

Call it Art: New York Art Quartet 1964-1965
New York Art Quartet

The New York Art Quartet reflected the richness of the avant-garde. The spirit that spawned Ornette Coleman, John Coltrane, Cecil Taylor and Albert Ayler’s fire also produced the subtle, contemplative sound of the NYAQ (alto saxophonist John Tchicai, trombonist...

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06/20/13    Albums

Understanding
Wallace Roney

So much has been made of Wallace Roney’s studies with Miles Davis that it’s easy to forget his first breakthrough: Art Blakey’s Jazz Messengers, where he succeeded Terence Blanchard (and Wynton Marsalis) on trumpet. Yes, Roney was a dyed-in-the-wool Young...

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06/19/13    Albums

As the Sea
Samuel Blaser Quartet

Doubt not that As the Sea is a demanding recording. If you do, the eight and a half minutes “Part 1” takes to get anywhere will dispel you of that doubt quickly. There are pleasures to be found on trombonist Samuel Blaser’s four-part work; the finding is...

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06/08/13    Features

Jeremy Pelt Strengthens His Commitment

Electric or acoustic, the trumpeter’s artistic vision is steadfast

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06/05/13    Albums

Aquarius
Nicole Mitchell's Ice Crystals

“Ice crystals” is a good visual metaphor for the sound Nicole Mitchell’s flute and Jason Adasiewicz’s vibes make together. The latter, especially, evokes ice (or glass, thus “crystal”) with a crisp, nimble attack that’s mindful of his instrument’s hard surface...

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05/28/13    Albums

Circular Dreaming
Quest

Listening to the seven covers and two originals that make up Circular Dreaming , Quest’s tribute to Miles Davis’ “second great quintet,” it is impossible not to hear the two bands’ differences. But how much busier pianist Richie Beirach is than Herbie Hancock...

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05/06/13    Albums

Sean Moran Small Elephant Band
Tusk

Most of Tusk sounds like Frank Zappa’s chamber music. It’s got favorite Zappa instruments (guitar, clarinet, vibraphone and drums); atonal, gnarled compositions; and blinding speed and staccato percussion. Sean Moran’s acoustic guitar style even uncannily...

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04/29/13    Albums

Museum Vol. 1
Kevin Harris Project

There’s no suggestion in pianist Kevin Harris’ liners that Museum Vol. 1 is in any way an exercise in minimalism. The soulful postbop record is crowded with repetition, however, certainly in Harris’ otherwise-admirable originals. Vamps, riffs, phrases and...

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04/24/13    Overdue Ovation

Nat Reeves: By the Grace of Jackie Mac

Never a headliner, finally a leader

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04/24/13    Albums

Deep in the Shed: A Blues Suite
Marcus Roberts Nonet

Reinterpreting one’s own album isn’t as odd as it seems; after all, it happens with songs all the time. What is remarkable, however, is listening back to Roberts’ original Deep in the Shed from 1990 and realizing how beholden it is to Ellington. The 2013...

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04/18/13    Features

Dan Tepfer: "One of the Guys We Talk About"

At 30, the classically informed, conceptually inspired pianist is delivering on great promise

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04/17/13    Albums

Late August
Gregg August

The postbop of Four by Six , so named for the two bands (quartet and sextet) that bassist Gregg August leads through his eight original compositions, is as stark as the cover photograph. Its melodies arrive in odd shapes and angles; its rhythms are irregular...

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04/16/13    Albums

Conviction
Kendrick Scott Oracle

If Conviction is an examination of character—including the famous ones of Malcolm X and St. Francis of Assisi—drummer-composer Kendrick Scott’s own personality proves thoughtful and mellow, without sacrificing intensity. The second album by Scott’s quintet...

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About Michael J. West

Mjw_thumb

Michael J. West has loved jazz since he was a teenager in North Carolina, but it wasn't until moving to the big city--Washington, D.C.--after college that he became a devoted fanatic. In addition to JazzTimes, he covers jazz for the Washington City Paper. His work has also appeared in the Village Voice, TBD, Jazz.com, the Monterey County Weekly and the East Bay Express.

West lives in D.C., near the "jazz district" of U Street, with his wife and daughter.

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