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Dr. White's jazzy elixir

Dr. Michael White - Adventures in
New Orleans Jazz: Part 1

(Basin Street Records)
3 stars (out of 5 stars)
Reviewed: June 10, 2011
Dr. Michael White

Review by Tony Bonyata

Jazz clarinetist, composer, bandleader and jazz historian Michael White cut his teeth as a teen playing traditional jazz for Doc Paulin's Brass Band in his hometown of New Orleans. He went onto lead several of his own Crescent City jazz bands, has famously collaborated with the likes of Paul Simon, Marianne Faithful, Eric Clapton and modern jazz icon Wynton Marsalis, and has been recording for nearly three decades now.

Marsalis (seven years White's junior) would not only explore the history of classical and jazz music, but would also, at times, push the creative envelope for both genres, helping to broaden awareness for both styles of music to a younger generation. White, on the other hand, stands firm in his adherence to the music that surrounded him all his life in New Orleans - traditional Dixieland jazz. And on his latest full-length album, entitled Adventures in New Orleans Jazz: Part 1, the good doctor has delivered a pleasing platter of Big Easy-infused jazz music that joyously parades through numerous genres.

While White's jazz style may not be altogether adventurous, as the album's title may imply, the song selection and arrangements make up for it. White melds together not only beloved jazz standards from the past, but also blues ("Basin Street Blues"), folk ("House of the Rising Sun") and African & Caribbean-flavored numbers ("West African Strut," "Haitian Celebration," "Pata Pata" and a playful rendition of "The Lion Sleeps Tonight," which, although best know from The Tokens' 1961 hit, was actually first recorded back in 1939 by South African Zulu musician Solomon Linda). The 56-year old musician also includes buoyant jazz versions of Bob Marley's modern reggae classic "One Love" and Paul Simon's "Take Me To The Mardi Gras," from his 1973 album There Goes Rhymin' Simon.

White holds all the different styles together with not only his and his players great tight-but-loose performances and arrangements, but also some of his own self-penned compositions, such as the bawdy blues "Im Gonna Hoodoo To Get Your Love," featuring a strong vocal performance by Thais Clark, the jaunty ragtime of "Black Stick Rag" and a perfect blending of jazz and blues on "Mpingo Blues."

While this album doesn't take jazz music (New Orleans or otherwise) to any new plateaus, it's still a delight to witness so many different music styles and songs distilled into Dr. White's own potent jazz-laced elixir.

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