Michael J. West

Michael J.’s Contributions

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01/06/17    Albums

Bria
Bria Skonberg

One can’t evaluate an album according to what it isn’t. Still, it’s hard to evade the fact that Bria , trumpeter and vocalist Bria Skonberg’s fourth offering, lacks the playful energy of its predecessors, like 2014’s Into Your Own . (No wah-wah trumpet...

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01/03/17    Albums

¡Intenso!
Clare Fischer Latin Jazz Big Band

Like Gil Evans or much of New Testament Basie, one comes to Clare Fischer’s ensembles for the arrangements, not the solos. Specifically, Fischer is about the harmonies; close listening leads to awe. With ¡Intenso! , Fischer’s son and protégé Brent reveals...

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12/30/16    Albums

Garden of Delights
Chuck Israels Jazz Orchestra

Israels doesn’t go for rhythmic gymnastics. One of Garden ’s 10 tunes is in 6/8, the others swinging away in 4/4. He likes a touch of harmonic complexity: Songs like the woozy “Speed Bumps” and sly “Warming Trend” put ever-so-slight warpage on the chords...

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12/21/16    Albums

Festival
Matt Ulery’s Loom/Large

Taken separately, any of Matt Ulery’s compositions on Festival would be fine work, worth exploring in depth and on repeat. Taken together, they’re exhausting. Ulery, also a bassist and tubist, is a writer of considerable skill and even more ambition; Festival...

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12/01/16    Features

JT Essentials: Protest Jazz

"Strange Fruit," "We Insist!," "Attica Blues" and more

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11/21/16    Albums

Havana Blue
Orbert Davis' Chicago Jazz Philharmonic Chamber Ensemble

Orchestral jazz is always a bit of a dicey proposition, teetering on the edge of pretentiousness. And when it’s performed by a “chamber ensemble” comprising 11 pieces, it’s even less promising. But trumpeter Orbert Davis, director of the Chicago Jazz Philharmonic...

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11/04/16    Albums

Classic 1936-1947 Count Basie and Lester Young Studio Sessions
Count Basie and Lester Young

It’s a universally acknowledged truth that great music never sounds out-of-date, and Count Basie is remarkably evergreen. His “Old Testament” band epitomizes the big-band swing era—the rhythmic, harmonic and melodic devices that made 1930s America dance...

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10/26/16    Albums

Inner Agent
David Gibson

The tuxedoed, sunglasses-clad, cocktail-nursing David Gibson in Inner Agent’s CD-gatefold photo evokes not the James Bond type that the title suggests but the laidback cool of the Rat Pack. That’s not what the trombonist’s postbop music brings to mind, though...

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10/22/16    Albums

Cosmic Adventure
Scott Tixier

Considering its unconventional frontline of Scott Tixier’s violin and Yvonnick Prene’s harmonica, Cosmic Adventure is surprisingly conventional jazz. The album’s nine tracks are mostly A-B forms, mostly swinging, mostly with lyrical, hummable melodies and...

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09/20/16    Features

The Roots of Warren Wolf

Some of the vibraphonist's favorites include Jackson, Hampton among others

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09/19/16    Features

A Portrait of Warren Wolf

Anytime, anywhere, the vibraphonist delivers striking chops and soulful musicality

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08/14/16    Albums

Restless Idealism
Roxy Coss

Tenor saxophonist Roxy Coss is a protégé of trumpeter Jeremy Pelt, and on the 10 original compositions that make up Restless Idealism , it shows. Among other things she shares with Pelt (who appears on two tracks) are fondnesses for elaborate linear melodies...

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08/10/16    Albums

Perfection
Murray, Allen & Carrington Power Trio

As great as saxophonist David Murray, pianist Geri Allen and drummer Terri Lyne Carrington are separately, it’s truly difficult to remember the last time any of them sounded as good as they all do together on Perfection . The members of the jazz “power trio”...

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08/02/16    Albums

Lotus
Mike Moreno

Between Billy Strayhorn and Woody Shaw, the Indian lotus flower adorning guitarist Mike Moreno’s fifth album has quite the history in jazz. But Moreno’s music therein has more in common with the mythological Greek lotus—when consumed, it evoked a pleasantly...

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07/09/16    Albums

3 Compositions (EEMHM) 2011
Anthony Braxton

Taken together, Anthony Braxton’s three new box sets comprise 14 discs and as many hours of music, each set using a different ensemble and taking a different musical approach. But any one of the releases is by itself overwhelming. The shortest, 3 Compositions...

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07/07/16    Albums

Luminosity
Florian Hoefner Group

“Typical” and “generic” aren’t synonyms. Pianist Florian Hoefner works to create music that “doesn’t sound like generic jazz.” To be sure, Luminosity , Hoefner’s third album with his quartet, is not generic, with its oblong structures and meters that require...

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About Michael J. West

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