Artist: Jack West & Curvature
CD: Big Ideas
Home: Oakland, California
Style: Acoustic Jazz
Quote: "With the extra two strings, a marimba, cello and bass, and drums, Jack West and Curvature is definitely one of the top West Coast jazz bands today. The East Bay Express called him "extraordinary," and The Oakland Tribune said his music was "nothing short of astounding."
By Erik Deckers
Intro/general thoughts: Eight strings?! I thought guitars only had six strings, or if you were Leo Kottke, twelve strings. Now here comes Jack "I Have Two More Strings Than You" West and his band Curvature with West's fifth CD, "Big Ideas."
So what do those extra two strings bring? I have no idea, because I'm too busy grooving to the music. West is a finger picking guitarist (like the aforementioned Kottke) who -- along with his trio of sidemen (including Turtle Island String Quartet cellist Mark Summer) -- has created some great acoustic jazz.
With the extra two strings, a marimba, cello and bass, and drums, Jack West and Curvature is definitely one of the top West Coast jazz bands today. The East Bay Express called him "extraordinary," and The Oakland Tribune said his music was "nothing short of astounding." All I can do is sit and stare at my stereo, mouth agape, at the wondrous sounds coming out of my speakers. The music is pure, undistilled, unadulterated jazz. This is what acoustic jazz is supposed to sound like.
Type of Music: Acoustic Jazz
Hometown: Oakland, California
Notable: The album was produced by jazz producer Lee Townsend, who's had a hand in producing some of Charlie Hunter's, Bill Frisell's, and Pat Metheny's albums.
Highs: Although it was a tough decision, I would have to say "Something About the Dream" was my favorite track on the album. Reminiscent of the jazz group Shadowfax, "Dream" is a bass driven song showcasing Mark Summer, with everyone else backing him up.
Lows: Only an idiot would find something to nitpick on this album. It's perfect, it's wonderful, it's superb, it's. . . okay, I'm an idiot. I didn't like the 33 second intro to the album. There, are you happy?! I found SOMETHING on this album not to like. But the other 40 minutes were astounding. I honestly can't find a song I liked less than any of the others, or anything to complain about. That to me is the sign of a truly great album.
Fans: If you like The Mike Valeras Group, Walter Duda, or Vincent Varvel (all reviewed right here on Indie-Music.com), you'll love Jack West & Curvature.
Foes: If you think guitars have to scream and wail, that marimbas are used only as cartoon skeleton sound effects, or that eight-stringed guitars are an abomination of nature, then you won't like these guys.
Summary: In some ways, it's a shame, and in other ways, it's a good thing, that jazz is only heard on select stations around the country. It's a shame, because more people can't experience Jack West & Curvature the same way they experience the big names in music today. But it's a good thing too, because it leaves them alone to create music for music's sake, rather than creating music for a record label's whims. As long as commercialism stays out of Curvature's way, they'll be one of the top jazz bands in the country.
Artist Website: www.aheadbehind.com