- Composer, Guitarist, Band Leader
Make no mistake, Jack West is on the path less taken. It's not only that he plays the eight-string acoustic guitar, a unique instrument that he had specially constructed while searching for the sounds he had been hearing in his mind. West is a musician dedicated to exploring uncharted territory, mapping stunning, minutely detailed soundscapes that feel uncannily familiar and yet completely fresh. If the title of his album, Big Ideas, suggests that this is heady music, there is a rigorous sense of structure to many of West's tunes. But in the fine-grained textures he creates with his quartet, there's also an intuitive sense of interplay and generosity of spirit found in the finest jazz ensembles.
A mostly self-taught musician, West, grew up in Savannah, Georgia and moved to Northern California to attend Humboldt State University. After 7 years playing mostly original rock, blues, and Afropop, he decided to work in an acoustic vein. Even before he hired Santa Cruz guitar-maker Jeff Traugott to build his eight-string instrument, West had developed a highly personal sound using unusual tunings and a dazzling combination of bluesy slide work, finger-picking, and unorthodox percussive techniques. The extra strings, a low A and a high A, have enabled West to further expand his bag of tricks, for instance slapping a percussive line on the extra bass string while simultaneously playing slide or creating screaming-high octave slide runs with his first and third strings.
A prolific composer, West has released 6 albums on the small label Ahead Behind Music, five of these with his band, Jack West & Curvature. As We Know It won the Acoustic Guitar Magazine Self-Released CD Award for its "superb quality and originality.” West’s tune “This Life May Be Monitored for Quality Assurance” won the John Lennon Songwriting Contest award in 2004. And West’s compositions are frequently used as segue music for NPR programming.
Though he may be an artist with big ideas, there's nothing academic about Curvature's sound. His music is as emotionally vibrant and pulsing with life as any being created today.
[Excerpted from a lengthier bio of Jack West written by jazz critic Andrew Gilbert]