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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).