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The first of the 3-CD Surprise Trilogy, by saxophonist Chris West, reasserts that Nashville is not all about country and roots music. Indeed, Nashville plays host to an aggregation of top-flight session artists who need to be adept, multifunctional, and armed with a broad range of musicality. Consequently, West has cut his teeth with eminent artists such as bassist Victor Wooten, Dirty Dozen Brass Band and pianist Kenny Werner.
West's soul-drenched modern mainstream jazz arrangements are augmented by ample amounts of pop and sizzle. He possesses a full-bodied tone and whirls through bop, swing and funky New Orleans-based second-line motifs, conveying a level of maturity beyond his years and proving to be an ardent improviser throughout the invigorating festivities.
With a few tender moments amid the customary peaks and valleys, West often alters the various pulses and dynamics via graduating thematic shifts. His bluesy and somewhat rugged intonations spawn a congenial edge atop the fluent choruses and punchy accents, including eminent saxophonist Jeff Coffin, who appears on the tuneful "Mr. Grossman."
"Bits & Pieces" highlights guitarist Pat Bergeson's soul-jazz solo spot to round out a sprightly medium tempo swing vamp, touched with a melodic hook, while "Truth" features layered sax parts and a brisk Afro-Cuban metric amid guitarist Adam Agati's dark-toned and crystalline lines. West zooms in for the kill via a climactic delivery, spotted with spunky phrasings and a commanding line of attack.
West and his special guests reaffirm a budding and sometimes underemphasized jazz network in Nashville. Besides its resident session musicians spanning most genres, Nashville (aka Music City) is a pivotal artistic community. West shines as a young man with a horn who parlays a hearty jazz gospel and glistening constitution. From a jazz perspective, the saxophonist proposes a rather liberating outlook.
Track Listing: Surprise 1; Kenny; Bits & Pieces; Next Step; Where I Got My Groove; Truth; Mr. Grossman; My Reward; Surprise 1 (full).
Personnel: Chris West: saxophones; Don Aliquo: saxophone (2); Jeff Coffin: saxophone (7); Rod McGaha: trumpet (1,9); Oscar Utterstrom: trombone (4, 5); Pat Bergeson: guitar (3,7); Charles Treadway: organ (3, 7); Mason Embry: keyboard (2, 6); Jerry Navarro: bass (1, 2, 4-6, 8, 9); Derrek Phillips: drums (1, 2, 4, 6, 8, 9); Neil Konouchi: tuba (5); Justin Amaral: drums (5); Chris Patterson: percussion (6); Paul Horton: electric piano (1, 4, 8, 9); Adam Agati: guitar (2, 4, 6, 9); Jon Pail Frappier; trumpet (5); Ted Tretiak: drums (3, 7).
I love jazz because anything is possible; it has few rules and the best jazz breaks those ones. I prefer free improv because it doesn't really have any rules at all.
I was first exposed to jazz in my teens (in the late sixties).
The first jazz record I bought was Filles de Kilimanjaro by Miles Davis, shortly followed by Extrapolation by John McLaughlin.
My advice to new listeners is to listen as widely as possible and not to make snap judgments--stick with it.