Vlad West is a jazz pianist with a very original style, both in his playing and his writing. Born and raised in Russia , he had extensive classical training, was a professional from an early age. This CD will certainly hold your interest throughout.
Vlad West is a pianist with a very original style, both in his playing and his writing. Vlad West’s latest recording, Green Light, is a change of pace. He is featured on 13 of his compositions not only playing piano but also programmed bass and drums. While one misses the interaction that would have taken place with a live band, West’s constantly inventive piano playing and his colorful originals certainly hold one’s interest throughout.
The opener, “Ring For Swing,” has a tricky melody that he plays effortlessly. The performance, which hints in spots at Thelonious Monk, is concise and effective. “Robins’ Dream” is atmospheric, has the feel of classical music, and covers a variety of different ideas. “No Hard Feelings,” which is funky and a little eccentric, is rhythmically catchy.
On “Red Carpet,” Vlad West digs into a blues, infusing the music with some impressive double-time runs. “M.F.” has a fast melody and finds West creating interesting variations from the theme. “Gypsy Doll” starts out as a ballad and, even though it gets hotter as it progresses it retains its thoughtful mood. “Green Light” has a dissonant melody which is purposely a little childlike. “Someone Is Waiting For You” begins with an ominous rhythm although it becomes more light-hearted as it evolves.
There is playfulness during some of these selections, particularly on “If Clouds Will Disappear.” “Autumn Bells” starts out serious, at least until West quotes “Bye Bye Blackbird” and switches the music into a more classical feel by its conclusion. “O.G.” is a rockish performance that has a mysterious mood. On “Up To You,” the pianist quotes both “’Round Midnight” and “Epistrophy,” combining aspects of the two Thelonious Monk pieces in his own very individual way. Green Light concludes with “Never Too Late For Roses,” a solo piano exploration of a ballad.
Throughout his career, Vlad West has consistently shown that he is a musician well worth paying close attention to. Green Light is his latest accomplishment.
Scott Yanow, jazz critic and author of 11 books on jazz.