On his latest release, a too-much overlooked artist revisits a too-much overlooked masterpiece from over thirty years ago.
For over forty years, Michael White, one of improvised music’s greatest violinists, re-teams with two old friends to give us Voices. In 1973, bassist Cecil McBee and percussionist Kenneth Nash joined White on the fine Impulse! release The Land of Spirit and Light. Thirty years later, these same fine musicians came together to record new material, along with a cut from that album, "Fiesta Dominical."
Voices starts with a very calming, yet attention-grabbing, improvisation for violin, voice and percussion. Some may be put off by Leisei Chen’s vocal stylings, but those who allow themselves to be transported will be rewarded. "Circumambulation" follows in much the same vein, reminding one of some of John McLaughlin’s acoustic work with the Mahavishnu Orchestra. Cecil McBee plays an arco solo that reminds us why he has long been one of jazz’s most sought-after bassists. After bass and percussion have had their say, guitarist Timothy Young acquits himself well on a meditative chorded solo.
"Jeff’s Place" swings lightly, taking us farther into White’s past, in a remembrance of a favorite uncle’s bar. This cut breaks up the solemnity of all that has come before with good-humored solos from Young, McBee, and White.
White dedicates the romantic bossa-nova "Serenade" to his wife Leisei, and her singing provides mellow foundation. The violinist once again shows his sense of humor on "Mechanical Man," which he describes as a "love story" with more terrific guitar from Young.
The past gets another look on the standard "My One and Only Love." The band next delineates "Rose Moon," "a Heavenly Body that is rarely seen," with an improvised duet of bass and violin accompanied by percussion flourishes, before ending the album with the remake of "Fiesta Domenical."
With the release of Voices and the re-release of The Land of Spirit and Light on Verve, let’s hope Michael White ceases to be one of the great "overlooked" artists in jazz, and gets the audience he deserves.