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TSJR’s Featured Smooth Jazz Artist

A profile of our selected smooth jazz artist of the month

Each month, we will profile a smooth jazz artist we feel has made a great contribution to the music universe we have come to know and love as smooth or contemporary jazz. This month, we throw our spotlight on…

Peter White – A Unique & Treasured UK Gift

The charming British acoustic guitarist Peter White is one of the hardest working musicians in the industry. He is involved in numerous creative projects with unique and talented musicians from diverse genres. He performs worldwide and is in great demand by his colleagues.Peter White

White was blessed with the natural talent for playing by ear; however, he also spent time and energy cultivating these skills. With this gifted talent, he is able to play numerous instruments, but he is nationally and internationally known for playing the acoustic guitar. White’s style is quite versatile. It’s a combination of jazz, pop, rock, soul, funk and classical. His sound is unique and energized. As fans the world over can tell you, once you have heard him play, it is sure to change how you define style and charisma.

White was born on September 20, 1954, in Luton, Bedfordshire, England — a town 30 miles north of London. The family soon moved after his birth to the quaint little town of Letchworth, Garden City, England. As a young child, White’s parents Kenneth and Gilberte exposed him and his three siblings, John, Michele, and Danny, to playing an assortment of instruments. However, the two children that who were more inspired playing an instrument were White and his younger brother Danny.  Danny is an accomplished pianist and, to this day, still plays on some of White’s CDs, and they occasionally perform on stage together.

When the lad from Luton was about 8 years old, his parents bought him an acoustic guitar.  White taught himself to play (his father did not have experience with the guitar) while simultaneously taking lessons from his father on the recorder (woodwind instrument), piano, and then later, clarinet, cornet, and trombone. With all his new found talents, he eventually joined the Letchworth Town Brass Band. To this day, the band is still empowering amateur brass players to entertain the local community.

In 1967, White attended Hitchin Boys’ School in Hitchin, Hertfordshire, England. While attending school, he took violin lessons and, on the side, he took private harmonica lessons. Along the way in his latter teens, he learned how to play the accordion. During these formative years, this well-accomplished guitarist was inspired by numerous legendary artists such as The Beatles, Eric Clapton, Jimi Hendrix, Rolling Stones, Mason Wilson, and Led Zeppelin. His getaway to the world of rock and roll was at his friend David Visick’s house, where Visick had a large record collection. In fact, he bought his very first LP from Visick, the Beatles, Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band.

White taught himself to play the basic chords on the acoustic guitar; however, he was getting more enthralled with the electric guitar after watching his idols perform on the family’s small black and white television. To see his idols handle the guitar and jump up and down on stage — and to put all that energy into that compelling instrument — made him eagerly want one.

Eventually, he was able to get his electric guitar and amplifier. He studied intensely, listening to Hendix, Clapton, and many others while trying to perfect his skills. Unfortunately, his dream came to an abrupt end when his electric guitar burned in an accidental fire. For years, White thought his amplifier had a short and caught fire, but, lo and behold, 25 years later, his brother Danny came clean and confessed that he was playing with matches and caught the room on fire. White reverted back to the acoustic guitar, and that decision has proven to be a delight for smooth jazz fans everywhere.
White gained a new appreciation for the acoustic guitar after listening to Joni Mitchell’s song “Blue.” He became more in tune with lyrics and melodies. He also started listening more to acoustic artists like James Taylor and, Crosby, Stills and Nash and ultimately realized that being a musician was his true calling.

After finishing high school, White worked several months in a soup canning factory before getting his first professional gig, playing the electric guitar in a dance band.  In the summer of 1974, he read an ad in the UK music magazine Melody Maker for a musician in London. He responded by taking a train to London and auditioning for the band Principal Edwards Magic Theatre and got the gig.  Unfortunately, the band disbanded the same year. However, around the time it disbanded, folk-rock musician Al Stewart’s keyboardist left Stewarts band.  When former Principal Edwards Magic Theatre manager Miles Copeland heard Stewart needed a keyboardist, he recommended White to Stewart’s manager Luke O’Reilly. Surprisingly, White received a call to audition as a keyboardist in Stewart’s band and actually ended up auditioning at Miles Copeland’s house. Needless to say, White got the gig and joined Stewart’s band in 1975.

White had the opportunity to experience a new and exciting journey touring England, Scotland, and the United States. It was also his first trip to United States. He was on a whirlwind ride, opening up for artists like Linda Ronstadt, Billy Joel, and Queen. The keyboardist was 20 years old, and he was having the time of his life. All of his dreams were finally coming true.

In the summer of 1975, White had his first studio experience at the famed Abbey Road studio in London, playing keyboards and acoustic guitar on Stewart’s album the Year of the Cat which was a multi-million- seller hit. This was the beginning of a musical collaboration that was to last over 15 years during which time Stewart and White wrote and recorded many songs together, including Stewart’s 1978 Top Ten hit “Time Passages.”

In the mid 80’s, White’s brother Danny formed a band called Matt Bianco. The vocalist in the band was talented Polish artist, Basia Trzetrzelewska, formally known as “Basia.”  In 1987, Danny decided to promote Basia’s solo career because she had a captivating presence on stage.  Danny asked White for his musical assistance playing the guitar, and White was gladly able to support his brother and Basia on her recordings. He eventually toured with them while he was still touring with Stewart.

White’s favorite radio station in Los Angeles was KMET, station 94.7. It was a rock station that played Led Zeppelin every hour on the hour. Unbeknownst to White in 1987, station KMET switched over to another format that was playing acoustic music. He started hearing a band called Acoustic Alchemy playing acoustic guitars and was so overwhelmed with joy, he said, “If they can play acoustic guitar and get played on the radio, so can I.” He was already known for playing acoustic guitar in Stewart’s band; so, his unique sound was easily recognized.

In 1990, after 15 years performing as a backup musician and doing sideman gigs, the guitarist launched his solo career with the release of his first album Reveillez-Vous (French for” Wake up”). The title he chose was in honor of his French mother, Gilberte. The album included several unused songs that White wrote for Stewart, and it became a favorite among contemporary jazz and emerging smooth jazz radio stations. Epic executive Cliff Gorov was the man who first brought White’s music to the attention of contemporary jazz radio.  White was so impressive in his new genre that Stewart’s drummer Steve Chapman put down his sticks and became White’s manager.

White’s extensive discography of albums includes Reveillez-Vous (1990) – Chase, Excusez-Moi (1991) – Sin-Drome, Promenade (1993) – Sin-Drome, Reflections (1994) – Sin-Drome, Caravan of Dreams (1996) – Sony, Songs of the Season (1997) – Sony, Perfect Moment (1998) – Sony,  Glow (2001) – Columbia, Confidential (2004) – Columbia, Playin’ Favorites (2006) – Columbia, A Peter White Christmas (2007) –ARTizen, Good Day (2009) – Peak,  Here We Go (2012) – Heads Up.

The song “Bueno Funk” from the Glow album is noted to be a favorite theme song for White’s fans. They put the song on their MySpace pages, and it’s a staple for his live shows. Just about every well-known artist in smooth jazz has played that song with him.

Throughout this nationally acclaimed acoustic guitarist’s 30-plus years of entertaining jazz enthusiasts throughout the world, he is considered among his colleagues as one of the hardest working musicians in the industry. As well as recording his own music, he has performed on recordings by many celebrated artists such as, Rick Braun, Mindi Abair, Lee Ritenour, Richard Elliott, Dave Koz, David Benoit, Brenda Russell, Craig Chaquico, Steve Cole, Gerald Albright, Jonathan Butler, Kirk Whalum and the list goes on and on and on. White has also been part of numerous tours including Guitars and Saxes, Jazz Attack, JazzTrax Christmas, and Smooth Jazz Christmas. He also performs on jazz cruises, jazz concerts, jazz fests and literally anywhere and everywhere he can promote his amazing music.

In 2003, he established his first Peter White Christmas Tour featuring Mindi Abair and, in 2004, he added Rick Braun. For the last nine years, it has been Abair and Braun hitting the jovial holiday trails with White on his annual Christmas tours.  In 2009, White didn’t perform his Christmas tour. Instead, he performed with Dave Koz and Friends Christmas Reunion Tour.

The one constant companion on stage with White is his Super Ace nylon string acoustic/electric guitar, designed by Paul McGill, a guitar builder in Nashville, Tennessee. He has been playing it since March 1999.

White’s fans are always asking him what keeps him motivated and so excited when he plays. He says, “It’s the faces in the crowd and the fans that keep the experience fresh. I’ll play a live show, and someone will come to me afterward and say, ‘Oh, I loved this CD,’ or ‘This song helped me through a bad time,’” he explains. “Or I get emails from people saying, ‘Oh, I love the way you covered one of my favorite songs on your record back in 1994.’ The idea that someone can write me an email and tell me about something I did on a record that was released fifteen years ago – you can’t buy that. That’s priceless. That’s what keeps me going – the idea that people out there really care about what I do, the idea that I’ve made a difference for someone.”

White’s philosophy of life is, “Don’t be afraid to be yourself. Fear is a powerful force. We should accept it, confront it, and move past it. Only then can we live a rich and fulfilling life. Also, follow your dreams but don’t have too high expectations. The joy of life is found in the journey, not the destination, and be thankful for life’s small pleasures.”

There are numerous accomplishments that were bestowed upon our incredible acoustic guitarist throughout the years. In 2000, at the 1st Oasis Smooth Jazz Awards, he received three awards: CD of the Year for Perfect Moment, Song of the Year for “Midnight in Manhattan” with Grover Washington, Jr., and Best Guitarist. He was named the Best Guitarist at the National Smooth Jazz Awards for four consecutive years from 2000-2003. In 2005, he was nominated for International Artist of the Year at the Canadian Smooth Jazz Awards. In 2008, he won the International Instrumentalist of the Year at the Canadian Smooth Jazz Awards. In 2010, at the American Smooth Jazz Awards, he won Guitarist of the Year, Album of the Year- Good Day, and Song of the Year – “Bright.” In 2011, he won Guitarist of the Year at the Oasis Contemporary Jazz Awards which was presented to him at the Seabreeze Jazz Festival. In 2012, he was nominated for Best Contemporary Jazz Artist at the Soul Train Awards. His song “Here We Go” hit Billboard #1 in the Smooth Jazz category and #1 at Groove Jazz Music.

White and his wife live in Los Angeles with their daughter Charlotte. They are true animal lovers. They foster cats, preparing them for permanent homes. White has a little known fun fact: He was the UK’s junior champion on harmonica, and he still has the award.

To read more about White and hear his phenomenal acoustic guitar playing as well as the other instruments he plays, visit his website: http://www.peterwhite.com.

I hope you enjoyed reading White’s exciting musical journey. See you next month on “The Ride.” — René Sutton

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