November 11, 2010. With a fierce wind howling through London, Peter White blew into Dean Street’s Pizza Express for a two hour twenty minute musical marathon that defined what great smooth jazz should all be about. Indeed in the stellar company of Tony Mason on drums, the ubiquitous Frank Felix on bass, sax-man Jaared and the outstanding Greg Karukas on keys he plundered his considerable discography for a welter of gems that, for everyone who was there, will live long in the memory.
With the tour scheduled to conclude with gigs in Maidstone and Altrincham, this was White’s eighth and final night at what has become the UK’s pre-eminent contemporary jazz venue. In fact less than two weeks earlier he had stolen the show at the American Smooth Jazz Awards in Chicago where he scooped three awards. One such accolade was for ‘Good Day’ which was recognized as ‘smooth jazz album of the year’ and here it was to this collection that he turned for the superb ‘Always Forever’, ‘Say Goodnight’ and the infectious title cut. The sell-out crowd hung on every note and found equal pleasure in ‘Bright’ that is White’s tribute to Wayman Tisdale and which in Chicago was voted ‘best song’ of 2010.
‘Will You Still Love Me’ and ‘My Cherie Amour’ both rekindled memories of the 1994 ‘Reflections’ album yet no Peter White appearance would be complete without his recollection of how hearing the Isley Brothers play for the first time changed his musical direction. He tells the tale as his intro to ‘Who’s That Lady’ and on this night, as most others, he had his usual fun with it. White’s arrangement of the title cut from his 1998 CD ‘Perfect Moment’ included an inspired solo from Karukas on keys and later, when he was generously afforded center stage, Karukas again regaled the audience with the stunning ‘Sound Of Emotion’ and his radio mega-hit ‘Lady In The Red Dress’. It was a performance that confirmed the virtuosity of the entire collective and another was from the always excellent Jaared who found huge favor with his rendition of ‘Dancing With You’ from his own current CD ‘Manhattan Nights’.
Jaared was also in fine form when stepping up with the vocals for the Brenda Russell number ‘She’s In Love’ which can be found on White’s 2004 release ‘Confidential’ and as White slipped ‘back in the day’, first for ‘Boulevard’ from the 1993 ‘Promenade’ and then with the 1991 ‘Dreamwalk’ there was a hint of musical magic in the air.
Peter’s mother regularly attends his shows and was there at the Pizza Express. Her attendance gave him the chance to play ‘My Prayer’ from ‘Perfect Moment’ which he describes as her favorite tune and to momentarily turn down the tempo. However, as the clock approached 11-00 PM and the set drove on toward what proved to be a rapturous conclusion, the band were again energized by both the high octane ‘Bueno Funk’ and the just as hot ‘San Diego’ that White deftly merged with the terrific ‘Bullseye’.
Yet on this most special of nights the final installment came in the form of the Frank Felix tune ‘Sugar Foot’ that sent the crowd home happy and delivered a wonderfully funky end to yet another memorable Peter White experience.