The Players: Perry Smith, guitar; John Storie, guitar and vocals; Brady Cohan, guitar.
Material: New West's material is almost completely instrumental, with a single exception. "California," sung beautifully by John Storie, is an almost James Taylor style song which, surprisingly, blends in very well with their repertoire – mostly jazz, albeit with strong folk, rock and Brazilian overtones. The tunes, with names such as "Fables of Faubus," and "Peace Park," are arranged lovingly for three guitars with expertise and a clear understanding of musical theory that nonetheless does not deny the need for sonic beauty. It is lovely sounding music.
Musicianship: To state that Smith, Storie and Cohan all have Bachelors of Music degrees from USC is not to hype their abilities. Nor so, to mention that members of this band have won or placed highly for some seriously prestigious awards. Amongst them: ASCAP's Young Jazz Composers award, and the Thelonius Monk International Jazz Guitar Competition. They may look young, but they play and write music like seasoned veterans. Each man has his own style which breaks out clearly when soloing, but quite possibly it is the way that they are able to blend together that is their real talent, and that which defines this group.
Performance: This music has been called a new form of chamber music, which seems entirely appropriate. It may translate well to bigger venues, but a small intimate space such as Rockwood is the perfect setting, making it easier to get inside the arrangements, their constant meanderings and counterpoints… making it easier the see the expressions on the players faces as they pull off a difficult run or exude some relevant emotion.
A few audience members at this gig chose to make it background music– it is very pretty sounding, and could be used as such– but the majority were drawn into the heart of it and understood it for the wonderful thing it is. The new chamber music? Perhaps!
Summary: New West is a wonderful guitar trio whose music is well worth the listen, not only if you are a jazz fan, but also if you are into crossover folk artists like Bert Jansch, or John Fahey or even Michael Hedges. But mostly it is for those who simply like well written, well executed and beautiful sounding music. Keep an eye out for these three young guitarists, they are sure to make an impact in future years.
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