New West Guitar Group – Send One Your Love
(Summit Records DCD659. CD Review by Peter Jones)
The New West Guitar Group consists of Perry Smith, John Storie and Jeffrey Stein, who formed the ensemble in 2003 while students at the University of Southern California’s Thornton School of Music. This is their sixth album, and it’s rarely been out of my CD player since it arrived.
There are five guest vocalists, each of whom is allocated two tracks – one jazz standard and one more contemporary tune. Carefully thought out, then, but what makes this album so special?
First of all, the delicacy and sophistication of the singing and playing are immediately apparent. Secondly, every arrangement has been written by one of the guitarists specifically for the singer in question. And a third factor is that acoustic and electric guitars are blended to create rich harmonic textures, which we can hear clearly in the absence of any other instruments. Overdubs are few, and as far as it’s possible to tell, they are limited to subtle vocal harmonies. Familiar standards like Detour Ahead and You’d Be So Nice To Come Home To are balanced by fresher tunes like Joni Mitchell’s Black Crow, and Waltz No.1 by the late singer-songwriter Elliott Smith. And there’s not a duff track on the album.
Gretchen Parlato’s breathless, intimate style is perfect for the title track, written by Stevie Wonder, and also for Like Someone In Love. Becca Stevens sings Detour Ahead and the sad, spooky Waltz No.1 with the sort of yearning, quavery voice that one might associate more with folk music, but it works beautifully on these songs. The third singer (and the only male vocalist featured) is Peter Eldridge, who performs Black Crow and Kurt Weill’s My Ship, the former to a backing reminiscent of America’s A Horse With No Name. In common with all the other performers, Eldridge’s delivery is light and ego-free, in the service of the song and nothing more.
Sara Gazarek guested recently on Kurt Elling’s Passion World album. Here she sings I Fall In Love Too Easily and James Taylor’s Secret o’ Life, both with an effortless sweetness of tone. The final singer is Tierney Sutton, with You’d Be So Nice To Come Home To, featuring some blisteringly fast harmony guitar runs, and When She Loved Me, a wistful Randy Newman song from the film Toy Story 2 (and also recorded by Big Screen for their current album Take One).
In short, Send One Your Love is a complete delight. The New West Guitar Group are touring across the USA through October and November. It would be wonderful to see them in the UK some time in 2016.