Lenny White Live (CR 73373) has his 1997 septet (with two keyboards and two basses) playing passionate and inventive fusion.
Lenny White is best known for being the drummer during the main years of Chick Corea’s Return To Forever. He is a versatile player who has appeared in many settings during the past 45 years from hard bop to rock. Lenny White Live releases for the first time music from his 1997 Japanese tour, his debut in Japan as a leader.
White’s group is particularly intriguing, consisting of trumpeter Mark Ledford, Bennie Maupin on tenor and other reeds, both Patrice Rushen and Donald Blackman on keyboards, both Foley and Victor Bailey on basses, and the leader on drums. With that instrumentation and the all-star lineup of musicians, the music could have go in many different directions and it often does.
The six lengthy jams on Lenny White Live (which includes a version of “East St. Louis” that is nearly 21 minutes long), which are often ensemble and groove-oriented, can accurately be called fusion much of the time although it does not sound like Return To Forever or any of the earlier fusion groups. The musicians improvise throughout, sometimes riding on grooves and at other times exploring different sounds.
While it often sounds as if the band includes a rockish guitarist, that is actually Foley on lead bass or the keyboards. The music is generally fiery, inventive within the idiom, and full of surprising twists and turns.
This otherwise undocumented band will hold the interest of all fusion fans.