Verdine White: Shining Star
AAJ: How did you spend your 4th of July?
VW: On the 4th of July I was eating hot dogs, salad, and chili with my brother Maurice. We were surprised, while channel surfing on TV, andlo and behold, what was on? We watched the entire EWF 1981 concert and 30-minute interview, featuring a one hour-long documentary, on the Centric station. Wow, that was deep. Three hours of EWF.
After that I watched TV with my wife. We watched the Unsung TV documentary of Sly and The Family Stone. What a gifted musician; he could play almost every instrument. Produced by my dear friend, Michael Ajakwe. He captured it perfectly. Sly's life was intense, deep, exciting, and poignant. He had not done an interview in over 40 years.
AAJ: What was your first instrument?
VW: My very first instrument was the drums, at 13 years old. Had fun with it but it just didn't feel that great. Then, coming out to Los Angeles from the windy city on June 6, 1970 was a real game changer for me. When I got here I knew I would never go back to Chicago. Well, maybe to perform [laughs].
AAJ: What was your first paying job as a musician?
VW: My first paying job was when I was 16. I was getting $25 a gig for performing in clubs at night. Quite a sum for a teen at the time.
AAJ: Who were your earliest musical influences?
VW: I love all the great artists back then. I was influenced by the top 20 black and white hits on the charts.
AAJ: How do your peers view you?
VW: Today I am known by my peers and others as being the most consistent musician they have ever encountered.
AAJ: How does the role of jazz bassist differ from R&B or other styles of music?
AAJ: The bass guitar in a jazz setting is more of a support system to the other instruments. With R&B and other forms of music you have to be more aggressive.
AAJ: Was there a specific moment or time in your life when you realized that you had a gift and the skill set and competency to play with the best? When did you know that you could hold your own?
VW: I knew I had it when I played on this album with [drummers] Billy Cobham and Lenny White, and [pianist] Herbie Hancock. It was a jazz fusion sort of thing. I was so young and terrified being around such legends but held my own and realized I could do this.
AAJ: What are your favorite Earth, Wind, & Fire albums?
VW: My favorite EWF LP's are;
That's The Way of the World (Columbia, 1975), All 'N' All (Columbia, 1977) and Illumination (Sanctuary, 2005). We used great producers like Jimmy [Jam] 'n Terry [Lewis], Outkast, and Raphael Saadiq. When I play I first think of notes then grooves, then put it all together.
AAJ: What are your favorite recording studios?
VW: My favorite studios are or were: The complex that we used to own in West LA; The Hit Factory in NYC; Sony Recording Studios, Tokyo; The Record Plant in NYC; Conway, West Hollywood,
AAJ: What goes through your mind when you look back at the body, breath, and volume of work that you were a part of?
VW: Looking back I am always honored, blessed, and amazed at the 40 LPs we cranked out over the years. Sheesh, you are lucky if you get one!
All Photos: Scott Mitchell