New West Guitar Group
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New West Guitar Group

Los Angeles, California, United States | INDIE

Los Angeles, California, United States | INDIE
Band Jazz Americana


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"CD Hot List Review Review"

“exhilarating and deeply beautiful album…the playing is superb”
- CD Hot List

"All Music Guide Review"

"pastoral compositions that make you feel like you're looking out the window of a train crossing the Great Plains… a rich blend of acoustic and electric textures, and the arrangements are so expertly put together that the trio's sound sometimes verges on the orchestral." - All Music Guide

"Jazz Times Review"

“well orchestrated, cascading six-string work that falls someone between Leo Kottke and Pat Metheny, with a nod to the intertwining guitar arrangements of the Allman Brothers." - Jazz Times

"Downbeat Review"

“Round Trip Ticket is the most polished of the group’s four records…it’s an open spaces, sunlight-dappled record that feels like it was recorded in plain air with three musicians surrounded by redwood.” - Downbeat Magazine

""Introducing" Review"

The New West Guitar Quartet does Lynyrd Skynyrd one better by featuring four lead guitarists. Take that, Mr. Van Zant. Of course, by adding that extra guitar, they drop bass and drums. And piano. And horns. In fact, excluding some percussion by Matt Roberts on one track, their debut full-length album features nothing but guitars. Perhaps even more surprising than their unique lineup is the fact that the music on Introducing is consistently involving and avoids the monotony for which it would seem destined.
The quartet, which features Roberts along with Perry Smith, John Storie, and Brady Cohan, is wise to choose covers with strong and identifiable melodies, such as Miles Davis’ “So What,” Jerome Kern’s “All The Things You Are,” and Charles Mingus' “Goodbye Pork Pie Hat.” These well-known tunes help focus performances that might have veered off into directionless noodling on less well-defined melodies.

However, even on their own compositions, the quartet plays with admirable discipline and clarity. On the opening “Movin’ On” (written by Roberts), when the guitars intertwine and mesh in a delicate web, there is enough space to avoid a disorienting jumble of similar sounds. But there is no way to tell which musician is playing which parts—the parts are all distinct and carry their own personality.

Introducing works both as a mood piece and a statement calling for close attention. It is a fine showcase for the musicians, as well as a tribute to the endlessly fascinating and mutable instrument they play.

- Stephen Latessa - All About Jazz

"'Wide Awake' Review"

"...a mix of acoustic and electric guitars with a folk-based urgency that comes off like a more active version of the early Windham Hill sound...These guys make the potentially limiting idea of an all-guitar quartet work." - Cadence Magazine

"Ed Benson Interview"

New West Guitar Quartet
by Ed Benson

The New West Guitar Quartet(NWGQ) is a jazz guitar group founded at the USC Flora L. Thornton School of Music. For the past three years they have been touring the US, Japan, Canada and Germany, where they recently headlined the German-American Volksfest. Upon returning, they spent five weeks playing
throughout the Western United States. In the middle of their tour, NWGQ returned to Germany to perform at the Mayor/Governor of Berlin’s annual Hoffest. The performance coincided with the beginning of a new quarter in the German Parliament. Among the
attendees were various German leaders as well as former
California Governor Gray Davis.
NWGQ started as a guitar ensemble class at USC led by faculty guitarist Pat Kelley. At first, they arranged
classic jazz standards, but soon began writing original music for the ensemble. In 2004, they entered the
University of North Texas Jazz Competition and won 1st place over traditional jazz combos with horns and rhythm sections. USC’s Thornton School of Music recognized the group’s success by awarding them the Protégé Grant. This grant helped them finance their first CD, “Introducing New West Guitar Quartet,” which they released in 2005 under USC’s Flora Records label.
Since then, the group has worked with Larry Thomas (former CEO of Guitar Center), Bill Kanengiser (member of the Los Angeles Guitar Quartet), Bruce Forman, John Pisano, Joe Diorio, Larry Koonse, Corey
Christiansen, Frank Potenza, and Alan Pasqua. They have performed at such notable venues as the Montreal
Jazz Festival, the Kuumbwa Jazz Center (Santa Cruz, CA), the Jazz Bakery (Los Angeles, CA), Sweetwater Saloon (Mill Valley, CA), Jimmy Mak’s (Portland, OR), and the World Expo in Aichi, Japan. In 2005,
USC’s Studio/Jazz Guitar Program set up a performance with NWGQ featuring Pat Metheny. The performance was a part of Metheny’s three-day residency at USC.
Currently they are promoting their sophomore album “Wide Awake,” which was released on the Artsong
Music Label. The new CD features a combination of jazz standards and original compositions played on
acoustic and electric guitars. It can be purchased through the group’s website:

EB: Tell us about the backgrounds of each of the members. Perry Smith grew up in the SF bay area, and currently freelances around Los Angeles as a jazz player. He plays with vocalist Kathleen Grace and has been featured at many jazz clubs around town including the
Jazz Bakery and Catalina’s. He has won awards ranging from the International Songwriting Competition to the ASCAP Young Jazz Composer Award. His website

Matt Roberts grew up in North Hollywood, CA. He currently leads his own band, Matt Roberts Group. He
plays with artists in a variety of genres and has released several albums under his own name. In 2004 Matt Roberts Group won the L.A. Music Awards “Independent Jazz Ensemble of the Year Award.”
His website is

Brady Cohan grew up in the San Jose area and performs regularly with many jazz musicians in LA. In
high school, he was the guitarist in the Grammy High School Jazz Band and Monterey All-Star Band.

John Storie grew up in Oregon (Portland and Bend). In high school he won several Downbeat Student Music Awards ranging from best instrumentalist to studio engineer. He also won many classical guitar competitions including the OSAA State Solo contest for three
years. In college he was a semi-finalist in the 2005 Thelonious Monk International Guitar Competition He
currently performs around LA with many jazz musicians.
His website is

EB: Have you all graduated from the USC guitar program? What were your major areas of study? Any of you teaching?

NWGQ: We all graduated from USC with a B.M. in Studio/Jazz Guitar Performance – Perry Smith (’05)
Matt Roberts (’06) John Storie (’06) and Brady Cohan (’07). All of us focused heavily on NWGQ in addition
to our other classes, which were music theory, aural skills, music history and private lessons. We all currently teach privately throughout the L.A. area at schools and music stores.

EB: How long have you been playing and performing as a quartet?
NWGQ: We have been performing together for four years. In 2002 Perry, Matt and John were in a guitar
ensemble at USC together, but it wasn’t until Brady came to USC in 2003 that the group became NewWest Guitar Quartet. Since 2005 we’ve only toured in the summer, because up until now there was always at least one member still in school.

EB: Is most of what you perform original compositions?

NWGQ: Jazz standards have always been an important part of the group. They link us to the music of the past,
which brought the four of us together. We’ve always had some standards in our book, which now consists of almost 60 arrangements. However, soon after we began playing together, our desire to bring original
music to the ensemble grew stronger. Now we’re writing pieces specifically for the guitar quartet, arranged
in a way that takes full advantage of different types of guitars (electric and acoustic) as well as the personalities
of each musician. After 4 years together, we’re all becoming very aware of what each member brings to
the group, and as a result, we’re able to feature those skills inour arrangements. We think our book will
always be a balance of originals and standards, but our audience seems to particularly enjoy the originals.

EB: Tell me about some of the competitions you’ve entered and the outcomes.

NWGQ: During our first year together, we were lucky to receive financial support from USC, allowing us to travel as school representatives. In 2004, we traveled to Addison, TX to participate in the University of North Texas Jazz Competition. At the competition we competed with about 10 jazz combos from other colleges
around the country. These were the usual combos consisting of horns and a rhythm section. We came in there, four guitars, no rhythm section, and a set of standards like Miles’s “So What,” Coltrane’s “26-2,” and
some original tunes. The judges were impressed enough to award us with the Outstanding Combo award as well as Individual Soloist awards. The other groups seemed a bit shocked. We got to open for John Pizzarelli that night, and it was great that heard about the group through the competition. After our performance
in Addison, we really began to take things seriously as a group. We were put against typical jazz combos
and were told that what we’re doing is great. It was nice to get that sort of feedback.

EB: How was your first CD “Introducing” received? How was it marketed?

NWGQ: “Introducing” was an interesting project for us. At first, the USC administration wasn’t quite sure
about using the Protégé grant money on a CD project, but we convinced them that a record was just what we
needed at the time. In the end they were happy with the product. It took a long time to complete (almost the
whole school year) because of scheduling issues and the fact that the whole process was also a learning
experience for us. We used USC’s facilities and a student engineer. Once everything was completed, the
project was sent off for duplication. We received it only a week before our Japan trip! The album is owned by
USC because we recorded it there, so it has been up to them how the CD is marketed and sold.We were given
copies of the record and used it to spread the word about the group. The CD is currently being sold in the
USC bookstore.We marketed it on our website and had it reviewed by smaller publications, but in general, it
was simply a great learning experience for us. The recording is a wonderful snapshot of how we played
together during our college years. We’re so grateful to have had an institution like USC supporting us in such a project.

EB: “Wide Awake” is your new CD. Tell me about it. How will this one be marketed?

NWGQ: Wide Awake is a completely new endeavor for New West. We put much thought and planning into the
project prior to the recording, and we were able to hire an excellent recording engineer for tracking, mixing and mastering. In 2006, we all agreed that a new album was much needed. Our arrangements and ensemble playing had developed significantly even over the course of only a year. There was quite a bit of experimentation employed in the recording and mixing process, particularly regarding the panning and blending of the four electric and acoustic guitars.We feel we ended up with a recording that really captures the sound of the group. This album will be marketed differently
than “Introducing” we’re still trying to market ourselves as a jazz group, but in the vein of world and chamber music.We would like to be compared with the contemporary string quartets of our time, like the
Kronos Quartet or Turtle Island String Quartet, while still having the elements of Grant Green, Kenny
Burrell, Pat Metheny, Bill Frisell, Wes Montgomery, and other jazz guitarists rooted in our voices.

EB:You just returned from a European tour. How did that come about and where did you go? Was
each performance essentially the same set of tunes?

NWGQ: The opportunity for the quartet to go abroad came about in the spring of this year when we were
approached by the City of Los Angeles Sister’s City Committee to represent L.A. at the German-American
Volksfest in Germany. The three-week-long festival provided us with performances most days at the fairgrounds. In addition to Volksfest, we were extremely lucky to have worked with JazzRadio Berlin. They
generously promoted the group on the air 12 times a day over the course of our first week in town, and sponsored a concert for us at the Ellington Hotel. You can go to to see the photos from our concert in which 300 people were in attendance. It was also fun to perform in the former East Berlin at a small club called ACUD. The club’s atmosphere made for a memorable night. As for our choice in set order,
depending on the venue, we adjusted appropriately. Many of our tunes are delicate “listening” pieces that
require an intimate “listening” crowd. Some of our other compositions have a strumming acoustic guitar part. These seem to work nicely at the outdoor venues, considering we have no rhythm section to help cut through the inherent noise that comes with playing outside.

EB: What’s the future of the group? Do any of the players want to perform as a solo?

NWGQ:We have faith in the group, because each of us is so individually committed to our music and our
careers as guitarists. We all believe this group will be around for the long haul. In the future, our shows will
feature even more guitars; right now we use everything from Gibson archtops, solid bodies, steelstrings, nylon strings, 12-strings, and electric bass. The arrangements will continue to evolve and encompass a wide array of musical influences. Our tunes on “Wide Awake” are influenced by many styles. John’s tunes were inspired by everything from concert band arrangements to the
music of Charles Ives, Chet Atkins and Steve Reich. Perry and Brady’s tunes are heavily influenced by a
multitude of composers in the jazz world, and all four of us have influenced each others’ writing in countless ways. In terms of our solo projects, the fact that the four of us are so involved with groups under our own names makes New West Guitar Quartet that much stronger and more visible. All of us hope to tour individually and as a group, and with a bit of hard work, dedication, nerve, and thought, we will continue to
grow as a working band. We’ve been very lucky to have the support of many great musicians and jazz guitar
fans around the world.
- Just Jazz Guitar

"'Wide Awake' review"

"The ensemble’s sound is unique for guitar quartets in that they all play a variety of instruments, giving them a wide range of sonic possibilities, which they bring to bear with great effect on this disc."

"How four guitarists are so clearly able to create a smooth sound without getting in each other’s way is a testament to not only their arrangements, but also their musicianship. For those looking for something with more bite than what new age has to offer, the NWGQ could be just right."

-Thomas R. Erdmann -

"3 Guitar Salute to new music"

Out of the 40 or so students who study guitar each year at the University of Southern California, about a dozen play jazz. As part of their curriculum, they are required to form combos of three or four players and experiment with the capabilities and boundaries of their instruments.

The exercise is essentially a lab for guitarists and what led to the formation of the unique, all-guitar New West trio, which performs Wednesday night at Egan's Ballard Jam House. Perry Smith, John Storie and Brady Cohan, all of whom graduated within the past four years, did not intend to make careers out of the group, but the chemistry and creativity that came from it was too good to leave in the classroom.

The Los Angeles-based trio — Storie is from Portland, Ore.; Smith and Cohan are from the Bay Area — began touring while its members were still in college and just released its third album, "Sleeping Lady," which features the musicians on acoustic guitars made by Cohan's uncle, Jeff Traugott. The trio does not play as a traditional jazz ensemble, with each player having an assigned role, one playing changes, another playing a solo for instance.

Through years of practice, the group's sense of time and their ability to interact are sharp and refined. The trio (New West was a quartet until 2007) is a true ensemble, blending rather than layering their instruments.

Being young musicians with eclectic tastes, they've thrown plenty of rock and folk into the jazz format. The trick for New West was to make up for the lack of a bass player and drummer, both typical of more conventional jazz combos.

The guitar is "a midrange instrument," Storie, 25, said. "It was a challenge for us to compensate for bass lines, and the additional rhythmic stuff" provided by drums or keyboards. Instead, the trio relies on strumming to form the rhythmic and harmonic foundation of their songs. That, Storie said, "opened the doors for us compositionally. We could do anything we wanted."

Within the jazz idiom, New West has few if any precursors. Jazz guitarists typically play supporting roles with other instrumentalists. An all-guitar combo meant new arrangements and creating a new sound and way of playing. At least in jazz. The members of the group found unlikely inspiration in the Los Angeles Guitar Quartet, a classical ensemble whose members served as mentors to Storie, Cohan and Smith and taught them about the importance of blend and texture.

Forced to rely on one another, each learned to get more out of his instrument.

"There's just not a lot of standard repertoire for us," said Smith, 25. "It was a blessing in disguise because it forced us to create our own music. We had to figure out how to arrange and write."

In doing so, the trio has helped widen the role of the guitar in jazz music, and redefine the possibilities of ensemble playing.

"The guitar has always been somewhat of an auxiliary instrument in jazz," Smith said. "The guitar is not really a figure in jazz; the guitar is recognized as a figure in rock music. We've tried to incorporate that same essence in our music."

- Hugo Kuglya - Seattle Times

""Sleeping Lady" Review"

The art of innovation is the art of surprise, and surprises abound on New West's "Sleeping Lady." New West is an acoustic guitar trio comprised of guitarists Perry Smith, John Storie and Brady Cohan, all in their early twenties and all graduates of USC. Their young age is surprise #1 given the maturity of the music, but may be one clue why this music seems always new, written so creatively on a blank slate. The music itself, all original except one track, is the second and most important surprise, replete with unusual cadences and chord resolutions. The third surprise is chanteuse extraordinaire Gretchen Parlato, whose breathy vocals take the listener aback in a very good way on track 3, "Never Had a Chance." The effect is as if Flora Purim had stepped in midway through a California Guitar Trio set. The trio has obviously done their homework in the classics (Ponce's "Estrelita") and blues ("RC Think Tank," "Blues for Brubeck"). "Birthday Girl" and "California" ebb and flow as evocatively as the rhythms of nature itself. The title track is distinguished by the haunting calliope-like scatting of Parlato over a tintinnabulating chorus of lush open strings, sometimes meditative, sometimes angular and jarring. Past participants in the 2005 world Exposition in Nagoya and 2007 German-American Volkfest in Berlin, New West is poised to inherit a voice with the world's cultural changemakers should their ideas continue to be always new as their technique continues to season.

- Alan Fark - Minor

"Western Expedition"

When President Thomas Jefferson passed over 15 million big ones to the French government in return for the vast Louisiana Territory in 1803, he probably did not have swinging guitarists on his mind. But a little over 200 years later, the trio that makes up New West -- Brady Cohan, Perry Smith and John Storie -- have launched their own Lewis and Clark Expedition into the unknown realms of musical possibilities. (I'll let the three of them Rochambeau over who is Sacagawea in this scenario).

First there is the unorthodox instrumentation; multiple guitar groups are almost unheard of outside of the classical world. Then there is the choice of material. Yes, this group of jazz guitarists owes a great deal to their predecessors within the idiom, but listen only a few seconds into their new album, Sleeping Lady, and you'll find that the music is as much James Taylor and Radiohead as it is Wes Montgomery and Pat Metheny.

Sleeping Lady is an all-acoustic venture, signaling a trajectory for the group that leads away from harmonized bebop heads and towards the full arrangements of folk and jazz-infused chamber music that have become the group's bread and butter. Whether it's the driving 7/4 groove of "Crooked Railroad," which conjures images of a rugged trip along the expanses of the Transcontinental Railroad, or the hushed intimacy of "Never Had A Chance," where the trio is joined by vocalist Gretchen Parlatto, it is very clear that this group is charting a new direction in ensemble music.

While the music casts New West as explorers on the edge of the musical frontier (alright, I might be taking this metaphor too far), their debut at the legendary Yoshi's jazz club in Oakland's Jack London Square is, in essence, a homecoming. Two of the three members, Perry Smith and Brady Cohan, are Bay Area natives. Not to mention that all of the guitars featured on their new album were built by famed Bay Area luthier Jeff Traugott, a staple of the Santa Cruz Guitar Company for many years. While the group formed and came into its own in Los Angeles (all three members are graduates of USC's prestigious guitar program), this performance at Yoshi's, in many ways, represents the group coming full circle as established artists at a classic venue.

- Jeff Stien - KQED Arts

""Sleeping Lady" Review"

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.

- Randall Parrish
- Jazz

""Sleeping Lady" Review"

This beautiful-looking and sounding album was recorded in a home studio at the top of Mount Tamalpais, so “Sleeping Lady” couldn't be a more fitting title for an album that also includes a golden photograph of Mt. Tam on the cover.

Originally a quartet of music majors at the University of Southern California, the group downsized three years go to a guitar trio featuring Perry Smith, a 2001 Redwood High grad who grew up in Tiburon, John Storie and Brady Cohan. This is New West's third album, but its first as a threesome.

This CD is being advertised as a collaboration between New West and Santa Cruz guitar maker Jeff Traugott. All 11 of the disk's original songs were played on Traugott's steel-string acoustic guitars.

They sound wonderful, and, priced at $26,500 and up, they should.
Anyone expecting a New Agey album full of soothing songs suitable for massage sessions or meditation retreats will either be sorely disappointed or pleasantly surprised. The trio's tunes are smart, sophisticated and fascinating in their unconventional takes on jazz, rock and pop. And it isn't every day you hear a group in which all three members play the same instrument. Rather than limiting them, the three guitars allow them to build a big, full, lush sound, a new kind of chamber music.

The band pays homage to Mt. Tam on the ethereal title track, with Grammy-nominated Gretchen Parlato, a rising new generation jazz singer, adding breathy scat vocal lines. She
also lends her gentle voice to the sweetly-sung ballad “Never Had a Chance.” In another Mt. Tam reference, the gravity railroad that used to twist and turn up and down the mountain gets a lively musical tribute in the sprightly tune “Crooked Railroad.” The achingly lovely “Estrellita” and the lush “California” characterize this 20-something trio's soulful new direction in guitar music.

- Paul Liberatore - Press Play

""Sleeping Lady" Review"

I first encountered John Storie as a high school musician here in Portland at least a half dozen years ago. I was pretty much blown away by both his chops and his interest in jazz. Now he’s taken that talent in the direction of an all-acoustic guitar trio with fellow plectrists Brady Cohan and Perry Smith. The three-guitar acoustic sound is pure ear candy, and I’m quite confident you’ll find their efforts much to your liking on an all original program. Gretchen Parlato’s two sweet, soprano vocals are rather akin to a fourth (!) acoustic guitar.

- George Fendel - Jazz Society of Oregon


"Round-Trip Ticket" (Summit Records) - Oct. 2011

"Sleeping Lady" (Traugott Productions)- May, 2009

DVD Concert - "Live @ Rosalie and Alvas" (Mel Bay Records)- Sept. 2008

"WIDE AWAKE" (Artsong Music)- June, 2007


"A THORNTON RETROSPECTIVE" (Flora Records)- 2005
'Movin' On - featured selection"

"THORNTON OMNIBUS' (Flora Records)- 2004
'Movin' On - featured selection"



B i o g r a p h y

Featuring three young guitar virtuosos, New West has been making their mark as the premier acoustic/electric guitar ensemble. Based in Los Angeles, their original music combines the foundation of jazz with elements of blues, rock and folk.

Guitarists John Storie and Perry Smith established New West when they were all students at the University of Southern California. As music majors, New West collaborated with USC to become the first group to receive the coveted Thornton Protégé Grant. It was during this time that the Los Angeles Sister Cities Committee honored the group as musical ambassadors of LA. This honor gave them the chance to perform at the 2005 World Exposition in Nagoya, Japan and the 2007 German-American Volksfest in Berlin, Germany. The group has continued to perform in major venues throughout Canada, Japan, Europe, and the United States. In August 2009 New West performed at the Britt Festival in Southern Oregon as the opening act for Diana Krall.

Most recently New West has produced their fourth album “Round Trip Ticket” released for Summit Records on October 11th, 2011. The new album combines the different timbres of acoustic and electric guitar to create the signature sound of New West.

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