Michael J. West

Michael J.’s Contributions

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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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04/02/13    Albums

Songs I Like a Lot
John Hollenbeck

It’s easy to hear traces, in the songs drummer-composer John Hollenbeck likes a lot, of his melodic sense and cinematic structuring. His grasp of atmosphere and texture, though, is his own. That much is clear once he’s given command of the 16-piece Frankfurt...

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03/19/13    Features

Enrico Rava and Rome's PM Jazz Lab Honor Michael Jackson

Band in the mirror: Jazz musicians and the King of Pop

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03/17/13    Albums

The Messenger
Kevin Eubanks

Some elements of The Messenger just shouldn’t work: the too-cute grumble/ scat on “Led Boots” and the too-delicate guitar on “The Gloaming” all but beg to tank. They don’t. Instead, the sheer force of guitarist and former Tonight Show band director Kevin...

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02/13/13    Overdue Ovation

Mike Longo: Keeping the Bebop Faith

From his work with Dizzy through his teaching today, the picture of dedication

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01/20/13    Albums

La Peur du Vide
Bill McHenry

La Peur Du Vide sits uneasily between straight-ahead and free jazz, occasionally tipping to one side or the other. It’s familiar ground for tenor saxophonist Bill McHenry—even more so for his quartet (pianist Orrin Evans, bassist Eric Revis and drummer Andrew...

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01/17/13    Albums

Stefon Harris/David Sánchez/Christian Scott
Ninety Miles Live at Cubadisco

Ninety Miles , the Afro-Cuban recording by vibraphonist Stefon Harris, saxophonist David Sánchez and trumpeter Christian Scott, was among 2011’s best releases; Cubadisco , its new live follow-up, includes six of the nine compositions performed on the studio...

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01/08/13    Albums

Rhythm Sessions
Lee Ritenour

Fusion, lest we forget, spawned both new age and smooth jazz. Guitarist Lee Ritenour’s Rhythm Sessions is proof. Alongside its ample fusion credentials (including two dozen accomplished players, among them Marcus Miller and Stanley Clarke), it’s loaded with...

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01/07/13    Undertones

Jetway Confidential
Sonic Liberation Front

For all the cunning with which they assemble it, Sonic Liberation Front’s musical patchwork still feels like a mess. But it’s a glorious, enchanting mess. Boasting a range of guests and instruments (especially horns and percussion) so complex it literally...

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12/30/12    Undertones

Wah-Wah
Torben Waldorff

Eschewing his usual saxophone partners, Wah-Wah finds Danish guitarist-composer Torben Waldorff leading an American band (keyboardist Gary Versace, bassist Matt Clohesy, drummer Jon Wikan) that’s long on melody but also on texture and atmosphere. Only the...

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12/07/12    Albums

Means of Deliverance
Bill Laswell

Bill Laswell’s sound on the Warwick Alien—a newly designed fretless acoustic bass guitar—is astonishingly beautiful. Its core is the thick-string timbre of the upright, but rounder and more malleable, ideal for harmonic low-end drones supporting the guitaristic...

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12/02/12    Undertones

Moraga
Carol Robbins

The very presence of a harp, Carol Robbins’ instrument, can cloak jazz in the veneer of new age. On Moraga , it does, and the Windham Hill vibe is amplified by low-key tunes and the presence of Gary Meek’s soprano saxophone and Larry Koonse’s classical guitar...

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11/30/12    Albums

Angelic Warrior
Tia Fuller

Angelic Warrior is a veritable almanac of the alto saxophone in contemporary mainstream jazz. Tia Fuller gives her distinctive sound a full and exhilarating workout, with bop (“Cherokee”), Coltrane-esque modal jams (“Royston Rumble”), Caribbean flavor (“Descend...

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11/25/12    Albums

The Columbia Albums 1971-1975
Weather Report

Weather Report’s first six albums, as Bill Milkowski reflects in the notes for Columbia’s collection thereof, saw the fusion legends move from “an electric avant-garde band that appealed strictly to the cognoscenti” to “a ferocious groove-oriented juggernaut...

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11/22/12    Undertones

Nadje Noordhuis
Nadje Noordhuis

With a few exceptions, trumpeter/flugelhornist Nadje Noordhuis’ debut recording is all soft-colored, European-inspired melodies and gentle rhythms. It’s an extremely muted album, in other words, but that fact doesn’t diminish its power. Noordhuis has a sweet...

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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