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Arthur White and Merge: When You Find It

Jack Bowers By

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Arthur White and Merge: When You Find It
Turnabout, the saying goes, is fair play. The turnabout in this case is that of saxophonist Arthur White who, after years of teaching others the precepts of jazz at the University of Missouri, Northeastern State University in Oklahoma and, most recently, as director of Jazz Studies at Cal Poly in San Luis Obispo, CA, decided the time had come to turn the tables, so to speak, and put himself "on record" as someone who can not only talk the talk but walk the walk as a jazz artist and leader in his own right. The result of that turnabout is White's debut album, When You Find It..., a splendid quartet date on which White plays tenor saxophone all the way and composed every one of its eight tasteful themes.

It should come as no surprise that White's command of the horn is exemplary, and while his solos won't serve to separate him from the herd, they are invariably perceptive and well-sculpted. Much like a seasoned athlete, he won't beat himself. Having said that, it remains to be seen whether a competent but otherwise unexceptional group of relatively unknown musicians can find an audience outside their immediate neighborhood. Be that as it may, White and his colleagues are undeniably bright and earnest, as if their aim were to produce a respectable outcome rather than worry about how many ears it may reach. Which, in a jazz sense, is the proper way to approach any enterprise.

White's tunes, for the most part, are direct and lyrical, straight from the contemporary post-bop playbook, with some funk added for variety on "Intuition" and "Hiccups," and flat-out ebullience on the finale, "Great Plains." The lone ballad, "Second Time Around," is smooth and charming. While White's tenor is most prominent, there are shapely solos along the way by pianist Ken Kenner and guitarist Mark Tonelli, and reliable support from bassists Sam Copeland and Andrew Stinson and drummers John Kizilarmut and Marty Morrison. Vibraphonist Greg Carroll makes it a quintet on "Sweet Baby Sam" (on which he solos) and "Hiccups."

As an educator, White has been at the top of his game for nearly two decades, during which time he has composed and arranged for an array of well-known artists and performed with many of them as well. When You Find It... is a new step for him, one that not only furnishes a platform for his creative temper but will no doubt enable him to return to the classroom with an even broader smile on his face, one that makes any such venture more than worthwhile.

Track Listing

When You Find It; Intuition; Cyan; Second Time Around; Sweet Baby Sam; Tunnel Vision; Hiccups; Great Plains.

Personnel

Arthur White: saxophone, tenor; Mark Tonelli: guitar; Ken Kenner: piano; Greg Carroll: vibraphone; Andrew Stinson: bass; Sam Copeland: bass; Marty Morrison: drums; John Kizilarmut: drums.

Album information

Title: When You Find It | Year Released: 2020 | Record Label: ARC - Artists Recording Collective

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