Welcome to the latest issue of Denis Poole’s Secret Garden, the page that offers a British perspective on all that’s good, and not so good, in the world of smooth jazz and classic soul.
As the year rolls along its natural for followers of the format to identify releases that each of them define as their ‘best of the year’. Some are easy to spot. For example Peter White's Confidential, Freeman Benoit Project 2 or perhaps the latest from Boney James, Pure. It's usually the established artists who make such listings but this time around The Secret Garden is showcasing a really outstanding piece of work from a performer who is not as yet in the smooth jazz superstar category but who has just released a CD that we consider to be easily one of the top five albums so far of 2004. The album is Unsolicited Material and the artist is Larry White.
Singer-songwriter Larry White’s promotional material describes him as being long recognized as one of the top talents in the music business and indeed his pedigree of arranging conducting and performing for film, television, Broadway and the recording industry certainly re-enforces that view. Larry has been round awhile. As a child he performed on TV variety shows as well as acting in over 300 dramatic shows. For a time he was also contracted to Paramount Films. He attended the famous High School of Performing Arts in New York City and attended college at U.C.L.A. From there he toured worldwide, performing with the vocal group ‘The Sandpipers’ who scored a hit with ‘Guantanamera’ in 1966.
After a few years on the road Larry, looking for an opportunity to use more of his musical skills, began a long and successful career in musical direction, first in television, and then arranging and conducting for some of the biggest stars in the industry. The names he worked with included Kenny Rogers, Dionne Warwick, The Carpenters, Johnny Mathis, Randy Travis, Tom Jones and Engelbert Humperdink. He also struck up a special and long-time relationship with Dusty Springfield as her musical director. Among the songs he orchestrated for her were ‘The Look Of Love’, ‘You Don’t Have To Say You Love Me’, ‘Son Of A Preacher Man’ and ‘Wishing And Hoping’.
Looking for new challenges, Larry returned to his first love in 1998, singing and playing his own special brand of contemporary jazz. His appearances at some of the top jazz venues in Las Vegas led jazz great Buddy Grecco to refer to him on a live radio broadcast as ‘the best musician in Las Vegas’ and in 1999 he took time out to perform at San Francisco's famous Fairmont Hotel. Larry returned to Las Vegas for 2000 with a string of highly successful engagements. He performed at the prestigious grand opening engagements for the jazz rooms at both the Venetian and Paris Hotels, as well as being the first jazz artist to open at the Four Seasons Hotel. Other ongoing engagements include the House of Blues and the Blue Note. It’s also worth noting that Larry has conducted almost every major symphony orchestra throughout the United States and Canada.
Now, after relocating to Newport Beach, California and having just finished his 2nd CD, the all-instrumental Unsolicited Material, Larry is set to perform at various jazz festivals and corporate events throughout 2004.
Larry shared some of his earlier vocal cuts with The Secret Garden and indeed he has been compared vocally to Al Jarreau, Kenny Rankin and Michael Franks, although his style is uniquely his own. However it is the titles he has gathered together for Unsolicited Material that surely gives a glimpse of where his musical destiny might lay. The songs he writes along with his wife Margaret White are a unique blend of Jazz and R&B, with wonderful chord changes and interesting melodies. Their catalogue of original material has grown to over 200 songs. Despite that it was with no expectations whatsoever that The Secret Garden settled back to listen to Unsolicited Material, a state of mind that was destined to change after only the first few bars of track #1 ‘Morro Bay’, a lovely laid back track with a simple yet haunting hook and playing reminiscent of Joe McBride.
One could have been excused for thinking best track first but when track #2 kicked in with increased tempo, a nice groove and the infusion of horns that rolls right through ‘Joyride’ it was obvious this album was above the average. With the laid back ‘A Quarter To Two’ up at #3 the listener is immediately transported to deserted city streets, damp sidewalks and the flickering neon of a distant diner. It’s like being invited into the inner thoughts of an Edward Hopper painting.
Track #4 is the mellow and easy listening ‘Kickin Back’ and in the same vein comes #5 with the tongue in cheek title of ‘Can’t Get Past The Fifth Number’. Is this to be the case? Is this it for the stand out tracks of ‘Unsolicited Material’. The answer is thankfully not as track #6, ‘She’s A Mystery To Me’, brings a haunting evocative rhythm for lovers walking hand in hand down quiet summer streets.
And so it goes on. One classy track after another all the way to the eleventh and final number, ‘Cooling It’, that leaves a warm feeling deep inside.
Unsolicited Material is an excellent piece of work that deserves to bring Larry White increased success and increased airplay. Check him out at the Huntingdon Beach Hyatt Regency every Saturday night and visit www.larrywhite.com for news of upcoming performances elsewhere. It really will be worth the effort.
Do you have any comments on what you have found in this months Secret Garden? Do you have a favorite Smooth Soul Survivor that you would enjoy being featured in a future edition? If so please contact the Smooth Jazz Vibes Guest Book or e-mail me on DenisPoole2000@Yahoo.com.Posted by Denis Poole at August 24, 2004 8:10 PM