Friday, April 12, 2013

Lenny White - Lenny White Live (Varese Sarabande, 2013)

Drummer Lenny White may be a little bit below the radar for some, but he has a pretty wide ranging discography, moving from several albums as a leader to stints with Return to Forever and a famous sideman gig on Miles Davis' epochal Bitches Brew. Surprisingly, the music here was recorded 15+ years ago, and didn't see the light of day until musicians began pestering him to release it. It was a wise move, the band has Mark Ledford on trumpet, Bennie Maupin on saxophones, Foley and Victor Bailey on bass, Patrice Rushen and Donald Blackman on keyboards is hot and very tight making strong jazz fusion that transcends the limitations of that sub-genre. Opening and closing with alternate takes of "Whew, What a Dream!" demonstrates what makes this group memorable. Having two bassists makes for a powerful groove, allowing one to keep the beat with the other sols and accompanies the music. Same thing with keyboards, especially on the alternate take where one solos on piano, while the other keyboardist frames the music with subtle synthesizer. "East St. Louis" is an epic track, coming on over twenty minutes in length. Building slowly from a subtle bass and drums groove, Lepford drops in for a well paced solo, before Bennie Maupin kicks in, and there is a feature for unaccompanied piano. "Pic Pocket" takes a jaunty angle, with electric piano shading coloring the song, while White provides a rhythmic kick from the rear. On the track "Dark," the synth keyboards provides a foundation for saxophone and trumpet to shimmer, before White drops the hammer and the music blasts off. Maupin now tears open on his horn, peeling off hot layers of music while the band before a powerful bass solo backed with thundering drums sends the music into outer space. This album worked very well, and fans of fusion or R and B tinged jazz should definitely take note, the combination of funk, jazz and fusion make a potent mixture. Lenny White Live - amazon.com

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