"Astounding rhythmic dexterity and unorthodox percussive technique...unusual time signatures and odd rhythms...Jack West never has to worry about being mistaken for another guitarist" - San Jose Mercury News
"[Big Ideas is] a remarkable outing of cool curves, gently sloping musical parabolas, and wondorous bends in compositional structure. With rhythm at the fore West offers unusual sound colors, fluid slide work, and percussive attack" - Down Beat
"Stunning...one of the more interesting releases of the new year" - JazzWest
"Jack West is not only a fine musician, but he has an original approach and sounds like no one else. To my mind, that is one of the most important qualities that a musician can possess." - Lee Townsend
"Jack West negotiates surprising twists and turns and attains boggling musical heights...remarkable." - SF Bay Guardian
"A whole new sub-genre of jazz" - National Public Radio, Perspectives in Jazz
"Hauntingly beautiful" - East Bay Express
"The interplay [between West and marimbist Joel Davel] is the kind of thing that makes listeners go gaga!" - SF Weekly
"Curvature explores an original, rhythmically astute amalgam of blues, jazz, funk, and folk. Although complex in terms of time signatures and improvisations, Curvature's music is immediately accessible, owing to West's beguiling melodic sensibility and his absorbing percussive attack." - SF Bay Guardian
"Exploring uncharted territory...uncannily familiar and yet completely fresh" - Andrew Gilbert, Jazz Critic
"Organically induced homespun themes...subtle intimacy along with pumping beats and atmospheric propositions...enticing harmonic relationships...the guitarist makes every note count. The artist's memorable compositions and glimmering technique bespeaks a fertile imagination. Recommended!" - AllAboutJazz.com
"Obsessed with rhythm...[West] pushes his guitar techniques to the limit" - Metro Santa Cruz
"A restlessly creative musician...dazzling combination of bluesy slide work, finger picking, and unorthodox percussive techniques" - Jazz Perspectives, Reese Erlich
"Subtle, sensuous, accomplished, and mature. West wants and gets a group sound/identity. The music is well-contructed and smartly played. If you like percussive music that does not skimp on melody, check out Jack West & Curvature." - Cadence Magazine
"This tune ["Something About the Dream"] is taking me to another place..." - Chris Cortez, KCSM, Jazz 91.1 FM
"Rooted in jazz and blues...it's also highly accessible...extremely melodic and harmonically in..." - Oakland Tribune
"Curvature [is] a band with a distinctive sound that flows from it's unusual instrumentation...[West has] managed to find musicians endowed with a sense of syncopation as articulate as his own." - Contra Costa Times
"The full house at Yoshi's last Monday night [1/15/01] ventured out to hear West's idiosyncratic approach to composition and improvisation studious melodic and harmonic complexity, bouyed by infectious rhythmic verve." - Express
"In simple words, it [Big Ideas] is a great album!" - WartaJazz, Indonesia
"Excellent production values and a virtuosic approach to original acoustic jazz ... Jack West & Curvature create a groove and a forum for improvisation rarely found in acoustic music...Winner of the 2000 Homegrown CD Award " - Acoustic Guitar Magazine
"Gorgeous, tightly structured compositions built on shifting rhythmic patterns ... extraordinary." - East Bay Express
"Brilliant original compositions...breathtaking." - Contra Costa Times
"That deceptively simple phrase 'progressive acoustic jazz' belies the rich complexity of composition, technique and improvisation that West and his cohorts in Curvature bring to the stage. West brings together elements of folk, blues and jazz with a heavy emphasis on melody and percussive guitar technique. The result is vibrant, organic sounding jazz that...sounds like something never heard before...nothing short of astounding." - Oakland Tribune
"A fertile blend of acoustic blues, progressive jazz, and an international folk music feel, Curvature's music bristles with instrumental virtuosity and a freewheeling improvisational spirit." - SF Bay Guardian
"Original, consistently recognizable sound...tight arrangements, musical use of odd-time signatures and polyrhythms, and engaging, intricate melodies..." - Electronic Musician
Further listening: Erik Friedlander,"Bonebridge," the first two albums by Doug Wamble, Bill Frisell's folkier albums like "Nashville."
Laid back Northern California sunshine groovin'....
Now here's a totally unique little band from the the Bay Area. The blend jazz, blues, folk, Afro-pop with a little funk thrown in for good measure. If you dig some of Frisell's more recent work or acoustic Bela Fleck, but with a sunny groove with a few odd quirks in the mix, this could be up your alley. Give it a chance. It really grew on me and live these guys are really outstanding. The leader Jack West plays a custom 8 string acoustic guitar. What's remarkable is that at times he's playing bass parts, slide guitar and fingerpicking all at the same time. The band also employs the marimba lumina, a 14 string pedal steel guitar, drums and some percussion. This should be heard for its distinctly original concept.
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."
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.
Like former Bay Area guitarist Charlie Hunter, West plays a custom-made eight-string with which he adds rich chords and bass lines to his solos. But he's less funky than Hunter, preferring a breezier, purer music that he calls "progressive acoustic jazz." His sound is smooth and unobtrusive, yet it's also deceptive in its mellowness -- thanks in no small part to his Curvaturebandmates: pedal steel guitarist David Phillips, drummer Dan Foltz, and marimba player Joel Davel. Davel, who has logged "new music" hours with the Paul Dresher String Ensemble, creates a light timbral and harmonic backdrop from which West springboards, using his patented eight-string slide technique. Their interplay is the kind of thing that makes guitar rag readers -- and less initiated listeners -- go gaga.