The New West Guitar Quartet does Lynyrd Skynyrd one better by featuring four
lead guitarists. Take that, Mr. Van Zant. Of course, by adding that extra guitar, they drop bass and drums. And piano. And horns. In fact, excluding some percussion by Matt Roberts on one track, their debut full-length album features nothing but guitars. Perhaps even more surprising than their unique lineup is the fact that the music on Introducing
is consistently involving and avoids the monotony for which it would seem destined.
The quartet, which features Roberts along with Perry Smith, John Storie, and Brady Cohan, is wise to choose covers with strong and identifiable melodies, such as Miles Davis' "So What, Jerome Kern's "All The Things You Are, and Charles Mingus' "Goodbye Pork Pie Hat. These well-known tunes help focus performances that might have veered off into directionless noodling on less well-defined melodies.
However, even on their own compositions, the quartet plays with admirable discipline and clarity. On the opening "Movin' On (written by Roberts), when the guitars intertwine and mesh in a delicate web, there is enough space to avoid a disorienting jumble of similar sounds. But there is no way to tell which musician is playing which partsthe parts are all distinct and carry their own personality.
Introducing works both as a mood piece and a statement calling for close attention. It is a fine showcase for the musicians, as well as a tribute to the endlessly fascinating and mutable instrument they play.
Personnel: Perry Smith: guitar; John Storie: guitar; Brady Cohan: guitar; Matt Roberts: guitar, percussion.