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BiographyBorn and raised in Nashville, TN, Chris’s interest in music started at a very young age. Having inherited his father’s acoustic guitar, and a small Casio keyboard, Chris started experimenting with music as far back as he can remember. “I use to try and figure out as many melodies on the guitar as possible, and then when I discovered chords, it was a whole new ballgame!” Chris would try and get his hands on any musical instrument he could find and figure out how to play it. Chris decided to polish his talents in music on the saxophone after playing trumpet for two years in the school band. “I knew that’s the instrument I wanted to play before I even knew what it was called”
After winning many awards in high school such as the John Phillips Sousa award, and after several honor bands (mid state, all state, mid state jazz, Grammy in our Schools, etc.), Chris decided to peruse music as a career. At this time Chris began studying with world renowned saxophonists Jeff Coffin (Bela Fleck and the Flecktones, Dave Matthews Band) and Jeff Kirk (Maynard Ferguson) and in 1998 he earned his Bachelors degree in Commercial music composition/performance at Belmont University in Nashville, where he was the first instrumentalist to be a featured artist at the music school’s annual Commercial Music Showcase, which featured the top performers/composers/arrangers of the university. It was at Belmont that he also began studying flute and clarinet. Chris then took 5 years off from school to travel the country and compose for/play with a 7-piece avant guarde funk/jazz band called the Guy Smiley Blues Exchange. With this ensemble, he really polished his writing style and was even nominated for a Nashville Music Award with this group, for a song he wrote. In 2002, Chris decided to go back to school and in 3 years had earned his Masters in Jazz Studies at Middle Tennessee State University as a Graduate Teaching Assistant under the direction of Don Aliquo.
Since graduating from MTSU, Chris has taught at Western Kentucky University, as well as several high schools in the Nashville area. He has also performed or toured the world with several major acts such as Charles Walker and the Dynamites, Mile 8, Dynamo, Deana Carter, Brenda Lee, Johnny Reid, Mike Farris, Melissa Etheridge, Robert Randolf, Jerrod Neimann, My Morning Jacket, JoJo Herman (Widespread Panic), The Temptations, The Four Tops, and Brian Setzer, Little Big Town, Jennifer Nettles and has had the honor of sitting in with major jazz/funk artists such as Bob Babbit (Motown), Bela Fleck, Victor Wooten, Benny Golson, Rufus Reed, Kenny Werner, Tim Hagen, Randy Brecker, Sound Tribe Sector 9, Jim McNeely, Chester Thompson, Bill Summers (Herbie Hancock), The Dirty Dozen Brass Band, Rebirth Brass Band, John Medeski, Jacob Fred Jazz Odyseey, Dr. Lonnie Smith, Eddie Daniels, Billy Gibbons (ZZ Top), and many others. He has also recording with Shania Twain, Rodney Crowell, Peter Keys (Parliment, Lynard Skynard), Mike Whittaker, Jack White, Drew Baldridge, Johnny Reid, Marquee Mayfield, and many others.
Aside from being a busy player, Chris is also a composer and arranger. He has had original songs placed in several TV shows including the Originals, Togetherness, and Black-ish, as well as several commercials. Chris currently has a home studio where he works arranging and recording horns and strings. Aside from working with others on their projects, Chris stays busy recording his originals as well as creating unique arrangements of cover songs, many of which can be seen on his youtube channel.
Chris finished his first solo album entitled Jazzmanic in 2006. This album features some of Nashville’s top musicians such as Jeff Coffin, Derico Watson (Victor Wooten), and Alana Rocklin (Sound Tribe Sector 9). In 2011, Chris released a three disc set entitled the The Surprise Trilogy (Discs 1-3), and features Jeff Coffin, Don Aliquo, Rod McGaha, Derrek Phillips, Charles Walker and the Dynamites, and several others. The Trilogy was featured in JazzTimes, Downbeat Magazine, and several other magazines/publications across the US. All four albums have received extensive radio play on several radio stations across the US and Europe. He is currently working on his next album, which will feature his experimental, funky big band.
Currently, Chris can be seen leading a 9-11 piece funky jazz ensemble called The JunkYard Horns, co-leading a New Orleans style Brass Band called Halfbrass, and often does gigs under is own name in Nashville and the surrounding areas.
More About Chris West
- Belmont University
- Middle Tennessee State University