Vlad West

Say Hello to Russia

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You know you are in trouble when the inside CD booklet thanks Bill Clinton for inspiring the work at hand. Vlad West is a tenor saxophonist who is obsessed with technology and makes almost as much use of his Yamaha WX-7 as he does of his tenor. Also present here on this "concept" recording are the venerable drummer Adam Nussbaum, pianist (and here, synthesist) Harold Danko, and bassist Jay Anderson. It should also be noted that Mr. West (as he is now called; formerly Vlad Sermakashev in the old Soviet Union) is the man whose story the film Moscow on the Hudson is based upon. That said, Mr. West is a formidable tenor player, one of consummate skill, gritty soulful tone, and tight, elegant chops. So why he did this overblown, far-reaching attempt at a jazz symphony is anybody's guess. If anybody needed a producer -- and editor -- it was Mr. West, who proves to be his own worst enemy as an arranger and composer. The long, sweeping modalism inherent in much of the record, particularly on "Black Snow" and the synthed-out mess that is "Far Away," is more a distraction that anything else. The strange time signatures in "All the Things You Are" are a welcome change to the standard ballad take on the tune, while "Stella By Starlight" has its own quirky, edgy charm -- sort of like Gato Barbieri playing with George Shearing(!). Ultimately, however, the electronic sounds that are woven throughout the disc prove a fatal distraction. It would be wonderful to hear Mr. West with his groovy tone in a setting where he was guided through the recording process rather than attempting to do it all himself.

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