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Another solid release from the 8-string jazz guitarist from the Bay Area. No, the other one. In fact, Jack West sounds nothing like Charlie Hunter, although one needs nowhere near six degrees to connect them. For starters, West prefers an acoustic version of an 8-string fanned-fret guitar. For another, he plays a lot of slide, which is a rarity for a jazz guitarist. In fact, he doesn't favor flashy leads at all. Mostly, he is interested in the odd textures that he can create, and how the 8-string slide plays off of his accompanists. That's right-- a jazz guitarist with minimal need to hog the spotlight. To make matters stranger, he shares the lead here with pedal steel guitarist David Phillips, whose credits include working with, yup, Charlie Hunter. The combination of West's mutant acoustic slide and Phillips' Buddy Emmons-influenced pedal steel, along with creative percussion and marimba, lead to an album that would be strange enough just given the array of instruments. Then there are the rhythms, which occasionally border on some real funk. That's a weird combination, and it risks coming across like a novelty. It doesn't. Instead, West's oddness and propensity to surround himself with real virtuosos (which on other albums include people like Dean Magraw, or another Charlie Hunter connection-- Scott Amendola) result in an album that sits comfortably on the fringes of modern jazz without any of the pretentious trappings of those who are more interested in math than groove.
Further listening: Erik Friedlander,"Bonebridge," the first two albums by Doug Wamble, Bill Frisell's folkier albums like "Nashville."
Totally original, absolutely smoking, virtuosic ensemble playing. Beyond jazz, this music is fresh, dynamic with heavy groves and odd-time signatures. Soulful 8-string acoustic guitar with pedal steel. Highly recommended!