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Some musicians simply have an affinity for certain genres. Peter White, having assumed the crown from George Benson has established himself as the gold standard for smooth jazz guitarists and this means he now has the freedom to do whatever he wants. What White wants to do with Groovin' is demonstrate how deft a touch he possesses in not simply covering classic pop and soul music, but putting an individual signature to his interpretations.
There's a certain inherent risk associated with covering pop tunes. What makes them worth doing is they're already familiar to the listener. What makes them risky is if the cover of the tune doesn't measure up the artist is going to hear about it. The risk is reduced for White who respects the source material because when you're tackling Stevie Wonder as well as The Beatles you're doing songs known by heart.. Some guys simply have the knack for it. Peter White has the knack.
On Groovin', White's 15th album as a solo artist and his third album covering classics in his own inimitable style as he proved in previous efforts, Reflections (Sin-drome/1994) and Playin' Favorites (Columbia, 2006).
This time around, White kicks things off with a sizzling rendition of pure pleasing pop, "Groovin' (The Rascals), "How Long" ( by Ace featuring the underrated vocalist, Paul Carrack), "Sittin' On the Dock of the Bay" (Otis Redding) and they all score. White's playing is delightfully fluid, passionate as he seems to having a great time.
It's probably no coincidence Groovin' is a little more soulful in its sound and playing due to saxophonist Euge Groove coming aboard to record and mix the record, though interestingly he doesn't actually play on the recording. Groove's style of "soul-jazz" compliments White's fondness for 60's and 70's rhythm and blues.
The only clunker is "I Heard It Through the Grapevine" which suffers from a little too much production with the horns and background vocals threatening to drown out White. However, the dreamy "Sleepwalk" is as plush as a goose-down pillow. Paired with "Here, There and Everywhere" and Groovin' finishes strong with a satisfying epilogue to a marvelous musical stroll down Memory Lane.
This review is dedicated to late brother Michael Winbush, a lifelong Peter White fan who totally would have been groovin' this record.
Track Listing: Groovin, Do I Do, Sittin’ On the Dock of the Bay, How Long, I Can See Clearly Now, I Heard It Through the Grapevine, Never Knew Love Like This Before, Sleepwalk, When Will I See You Again, Here, There and Everywhere
Personnel: Peter White: guitars, accordion, keyboards and programming (1-10); DC: additional programming (1-9); Rick Braun: trumpet (1); Vincent Ingala: saxophone (4); Dave Camp: flute solo (2 & 6); Don Harris: trumpet, horn arrangements (2, 3 & 6) ; Bill Harris: saxophone, flute (2, 3 & 6); Ozzie Melendez: trombone (2, 3 & 6); Charlotte White: violin (7 & 9) ; Ricky Lawson: drums (2, 3 & 5); Eric Valentine: drums (7); Ramon Yslas: congas, timbales and percussion (1-9); David Dyson: bass (2, 4 & 6) ; Donald Patterson: bass (5); Roberto Vally: bass (3); Selina Albright: vocals (5 & 9): Caesar : vocals (7); Amber DiLena: vocals (5 & 9); Kiki Ebsen: vocals (1, 4, 5, 6, 7 & 9); Leticia Renee Lumpkins: vocals (7) ; Susie Rose Major: vocals, ending vocal improvisation (6); David Sparkman: vocals (1, 6 & 7); Stevo Theard : vocals (4, 5 & 7)