January 10, 2005

Peter White Plays To Strengths At Seattle’s Jazz Alley

Guitarist Peter White was in his element at several shows in Seattle.

In front of large festival crowds – where often the music is secondary anyway – clinking wine classes and friendly chatter can drown out the many charms of Peter White. White strums mostly romantic, classy acoustic guitar pop songs best served in an intimate, acoustically friendly setting.

White glowed in such an environment during a four-day run at Seattle’s Jazz Alley – his third trip to the venue – where packed houses chowed on good food and happily took in White’s melodic sounds. Playing two sets a night, White projected energy and gave the audiences its just desserts.

He played his former No. 1 song, “Talkin’ Bout Love,” from his most recent CD, Confidential, and also naturally his current hit, “How Does It Feel.” On that song, memorably mixing in what White calls the “weird guitar” of producer Matthew Hager, bassist Donald Patterson stepped in a few times to handle the weird guitar lines.

One of White’s upfront appeals is his good-natured camaraderie with his audience, which was in full display in Seattle. He took side trips to the sounds that have inspired him – Motown and soul classic such as “Who’s That Lady,” “My Cherie Amour” and “I Can See Clearly Now.” He invited the audience to sing along with the songs, and they managed capably.

Since White is an instrumentalist, he wisely uses the many talents of bandmember David Sparkman, a keyboardist and vocalist. His vocals on several songs provided a welcome change. Saxophonist Michael Paulo kept the groove spicy, drawing whoops and hollers for his sax solos. He can dance, too.

Perhaps because he had visited Seattle’s Experience Music Project and its large number of Jimi Hendrix memorabilia, White frequently switched his music box to the electric guitar mode and showed that he could probably sustain a career as a rock guitarist. He’d have to grow his hair out a bit, though.

For an encore, White returned to the Motown era with Marvin Gaye’s “What’s Goin’ On,” sprinkling in a few “Get On Up” riffs from funk master James Brown.

It was a perfect ending to a great show, with one of smooth jazz’s most influential players in his element.

Posted by Brian Soergel at January 10, 2005 8:34 PM