Lenny White: Just Doing It
AAJ: Because of the strength and athleticism of your work in funk and fusion, it seems your work with the great Buster Williams highlights more subtlety and nuance, with no loss of inventive polyrhythmic punch.
LW: Anytime I get an opportunity to play with masters of this music, it's special. I hold no style of music over any other but what I play with Buster or Ron Carter and many times with Stanley [Clarke] and Chick is heritage for me. Jazz is my heritage; it's not a style of music. What I learned was handed to me from all of my heroes coming up as a young musician. Although I listened to records, what I play was given to me by the masters of the music. I try to represent that every time I play, it's my obligation.
AAJ: I read you're working out an opera. I thought your original idea of duets featuring singers and soloists was a great one. What an incredible opportunity to explore shared aesthetics. Ornette and Placido? I hope you realize that project.
LW: As artists, we have an obligation to push the envelope. I've been involved with or around artists with similar credos all my musical life. I need the challenge, it's what makes you get up and start your day.
AAJ: Have you found a text for the project?
LW: The text is a story that I wrote with a friend who has written some fantastic plays. I'm also working on libretto with a few lyricists. It's a great challenge, but again this is what makes life worth living, the pursuit.
AAJ: Are you still planning a documentary on the history of fusion in jazz?
LW: Yes, that is my intention. I'm compiling interviews, viewpoints, footage. I want to start with Miles and Bitches Brew and go from there.
AAJ: Any plans after the RTF tour?
LW: I plan on recording a new project of my own to be released maybe next year or sooner depending on whether I can finish it in time. I also have a few pop projects I'd like to try to get out. I'm renovating my laboratory so that's going to take some time. And I'm just going to take some time to breathe...
AAJ: Any words of advice for other innovative artists compelled to search new forms and ideas?
LW: Like the Nike ad...Just Do It.
Selected Discography Wallace Roney, Village (Warner Bros, 1996)
Jaco Pastorius, Jaco Pastorius (Epic/Legacy, 1976)
Return to Forever, Hymn of the Seventh Galaxy (Polydor, 1973)
Freddie Hubbard, Red Clay (CTI-CBS, 1970)
Andrew Hill, Passing Ships (Blue Note, 1969)
Miles Davis, Bitches Brew (Complete Sessions) (Columbia-Legacy, 1969)
Top Photo: Scott Mitchell
Bottom Photo: Bernhard Ley