The Lenny White Collection

 

Lenny White is best-known for his collaborations with Chick Corea (Return To Forever) and Miles Davis (Bitches Brew). He also played with Freddie Hubbard, John Scofield, Marcus Miller, Bernard Wright, Kenny Garrett and more. So is he a jazz-player? Well, Lenny was also a member of The Jamaica Boys (1987), a popular soul group. Marcus Miller (bass) and Mark Stevens (lead vocals) were the other members. As a drummer he also played with Bob James, Pieces Of A Dream, Santana, John Klemmer and hundreds more. His fame is international. One finds bios in English, Spanish and even in Japan Lenny has left his footprints.

"The Lenny White Collection" is not a "Best Of", but a good survey about Lenny's works released on the Hip Bop label and with other artists of this record company. 

The album starts with Who Do You Love? from Lenny's album Present Tense (1995). Propably one of his most popular tunes, a strong R&B piece with a hooking melody, which profits by Chaka Khan's exquisite vocals. The album appeared on the Billboard Jazz charts, a reliable sign for economical success.

Those who have prepared for an easy listening, a light jazz mixed with a bumping funk, will be surprised by the second tune Little Sunflower. Last time this tune crossed my way, was on the Inner Shade album "4 Corners". As you can read in the liner notes of this album Freddie Hubbard's composition has always impressed djs and musicians inspiring to countless cover versions. This version is from the album "Hub Art - A Celebration of the Music of Freddie Hubbard" (1995). Marcus Belgrave and Eddie Henderson are playing on trumpets and Javon Jackson on tenor sax. The tune is performed in the Hard Bop/Post Bop style.

Tanya from the album "Afro Cubano Chant" (1995) is a Latin Jazz tune featuring the incredible Bob James on piano. A long tune (08:47) with extensive solos on piano and vibes  (Mike Manieri). Scott Yanow (All Music Guide) creates the term Cubop. We shouldn't forget the percussionist Steve Berrio's fascinating play on timbales and congas, a perfect addition to Lenny White's drum art.

More jazz on Dr. Jackle/Africa Talks To You from the album "Renderers Of Spirit" (1996). A very uptempo tune with a well-mooded Lenny White on drums. Chris Slawecki (AMG) called this music style jazz funk. One can discuss about this estimation. Personally I prefer to listen to the engaged performance of all musicians.

Uno Dod Adios from "Primal Blue" (1995) will please the straight ahead jazz fans with Kenny Burell's (guitar), Tim Hagan's (trumpet) and Craig Handy's (saxophone) improvisations.

Some Brasilian flavor is awaited on Jive Samba from "Essence Of Funk" (1995). But one hears neither Latin Jazz nor Funk. This is hard bop in a classic way and you can hear Tom Browne on trumpet playing pure jazz. And the man can play the jazz! Jive Samba was originally a great hit of the former Cornetist Nat Adderley.

Sack O'Woe is another showpiece of Cannonball Adderley's hits covered perfectly by Tom Browne on trumpet and especially Michael Urbaniak on violin. The tune is taken from the album "Urbanator "(1994). This album was the birth of the Hip Bop Records label, as one can read at their website. Even non-jazz audience will be enthousiastic by this strike up.

It Was A Very Good Year from "Edge" (1999) features Dianne Reaves. After these straight ahead jazz sessions some smooth jazz or crossover jazz. Dianne Reaves is a singer, who confuses the critics. Is she a jazz or a pop singer? Well, here we learn a less jazzy attitude. Nevertheless her voice is captivating and the tune has it's atmosphere.

By Any Means Necessary from "Present Tense" showcases another female singer: Jean McClain. She often appears as a background singer on albums from Patti Austin, Bobby Caldwell, Michael Bolton, Ray Charles, Cher, David Benoit and others. A good choice for this pop tune with a jazzy flavor. 

Pick Pocket from "Renderers Of Spirit" is typical for Lenny's walk between jazz, funk and pop. Although the tune has its melodious parts jazz friends will find a lot of solos to be pleased.

True Blue from "Organic Grooves" (1996) brings back some Hammond B3 feeling to the jazz, thanks to the famous Dr. Lennie Smith (not to confound with Lonnie Listen Smith). Grover Washington Jr. and Kenny Garret push up with great sax solos.

Straight ahead jazz fans with a feeling for contemporary jazz should give this high quality album a chance. This is an interesting alternative to the smooth jazz and acid jazz tendency currently influencing the music market.

 

HBH