The Great American Songbook has never sounded as captivating as it does when Paula West sings. Says Steven Winn of the San Francisco Chronicle, “It’s doubtful that anyone is singing better than Paula West these days…this extraordinary jazz singer wears each song like perfectly fitted silk”.
With a particular dusky soulfulness, West has captured the hearts of critics and audiences alike from coast to coast. Known and respected for her creative and distinct repertoire, West adds her own depth and drama to whichever song she chooses for the moment, creating whole new frameworks of meaning for American favorites. Without fail, the songs come from a place of sincerity. "In the end" she explains, "it's just getting the story across. To me, the words are the most important thing." As New York Times’ Margo Jefferson writes in her liner notes, “Ms. West never forces anything. She is rhythmically fluid and she knows just where to alter a melody but there are none of the embellishments that show off the voice, bury the song and leave the heart untouched”.
Born into a Marine Corps family, Paula West grew up in San Diego. "My parents didn't have a lot of jazz records. My father liked to listen to classical music”. Moving to San Francisco, she attended singing classes and jam sessions. Drawn to songs with interesting harmonics and literate lyrics, West always keeps two things in mind – communication with the audience and an intelligent approach to lyrics. "I'm a jazz singer – not an avant garde singer."
West has performed to sell-out houses annually at The Plush Room in San Francisco and at The Oak Room in New York's Algonquin Hotel, increasing her exposure via films, radio broadcasts and performances in France, Italy and Switzerland. West has also sung at major jazz festivals and has shared the bill with numerous jazz luminaries including Rosemary Clooney, Stacey Kent, Mose Allison, Freddy Cole, Jimmy Scott, Oscar Brown Jr., Rita Rudner, Mavis Staples and Dave Frishberg.
Performing consistently with The Eric Reed Trio, recent appearances include Jazz at Lincoln Center, Sculler’s, Jazz Aspen and a performance at The White House in a salute to American writers. Steven Holden of The New York Times comments: “Working with Mr. Reed, Ms. West has blossomed into a savvy jazz and blues interpreter and is as persuasive an illustration as I’ve seen that an inspired collaboration between singer and musicians can charge a career and send it hurtling in the right direction”. In addition to Eric Reed, West has worked with such jazz greats as Bobby Hutcherson, Bill Charlap, Frank Weiss, Mulgrew Miller, Peter Washington, Victor Lewis, Bruce Barth and Regina Carter.
In January 2004, West tied with Dianne Reeves for the New York Nightlife Award for Outstanding Female Jazz Vocalist. Her critically acclaimed cd’s include Temptation, Restless and Come What May, which received the California Music Award for Outstanding Jazz Album, as well as guest appearances on Eric Reed’s Max Jazz Christmas CD, Merry Magic, and Frank Mantooth’s final project, Ladies Sing for Lovers, featuring Karrin Allyson, Ann Hampton Callaway, Sheila Jordan and Oleta Adams.
West has been featured on numerous television programs including A&E’s Breakfast with The Arts and also on The Oxygen Network. Her film appearances include Chris Columbus’ Bicentennial Man starring Robin Williams and The Lynn Hershman film Teknolust starring Tilda Swinton.