New West is a group consisting of three acoustical guitarists with similar sensibilities and considerable talent. Their newest offering, entitled Sleeping Lady, is a presentation of primarily all-original compositions from the three gifted guitarist/composers. The music is largely reminiscent of the New Age Jazz Chamber recordings by certain Windham Hill artists; with a sweeping sumptuousness that envelopes the listener in its warm embrace.
John Storie authors the first selection on the disc; "Crooked Railroad." It’s a brisk-tempo number rich in imagery and effectively sets the stage for the similarly well descriptive and picturesque tunes that follow. This trait of abounding imagery runs throughout the disc, uniting all the songs into a well-fitting entity.
Brady Cohan, at first glance, appears to be the most prolific songwriter of the trio; with five songs on Sleeping Lady. His first submission is a pretty and reflective tune called "Birthday Girl." Trace elements of renaissance-era English Folk are updated with a contemporary arrangement to reach a pleasing result. Another Cohan composition, "Never Had A Chance," features the airy lullaby vocals of Gretchen Parlato. Her hauntingly breathy vocals float delicately like a butterfly between the forefront and background of enticing acoustic guitars being gently picked and strummed.
"Estrellita" is bolstered with an ultra-smooth and tenderly soothing melody. This lovely song fits the overall Sleeping Lady pattern of soft acoustic guitars, unaccompanied by percussion or other instrumentation, to present a peaceful and uplifting ambiance.
The title track, "Sleeping Lady," begins with an impression of lament that softly segues into a gentle pastoral landscape with rolling clouds. On the song, the brilliant Parlato returns; once again adding her understated, yet expressive, scat-like wordless-fancy vocals. Her presence lends a dreamlike texture to the foundation placed by the entwined acoustic guitars.
"California" is my favorite song contained on the disc. The pleasantly venturing guitars suggestively convey the magnificent vastness and the potential promise of prosperity which surely must have greeted the first pioneer visitors to the land of milk and honey. The articulate guitars interlace intricately to help express this convincing feeling of unlimited favorable opportunity.
Perry Smith composed the final song, "Blues For Brubeck," which features the fastest tempo included on the disc. This variation provides liberation from the faintly subdued tone of the bulk of the other musical numbers. It also capably serves the purpose of providing a solid showcase of the considerable chops these young musicians possess.
Sleeping Lady, the third album from New West, is a comforting instrumental excursion that should please listeners who value fine acoustic jazz guitar. In addition, the two songs containing Gretchen Parlato’s vocals are truly appealing. This three guitar ensemble successfully combines various sub-genres of Americana, Folk, and Blues to produce a recording worth consideration.