Arthur White and Merge, When You Find It
Arthur White has long been an influential educator, working as the director of jazz studies at the University of Missouri, Oklahoma’s Northeastern State University, and currently at California Polytechnic State University. While he has produced 11 albums thus far for his college ensembles, contributed arrangements for a long list of jazz greats (including Christian McBride, James Carter, Peter Erskine, Mulgrew Miller, Kevin Mahogany, Bobby Watson and Randy Brecker), and recorded as a sideman, When You Find It is his long overdue debut at the head of his own record date. For this project, White is featured on tenor and contributed all eight selections. He is joined in his group Merge by guitarist Mark Tonelli, pianist Ken Kehner, Andrew Stinson or Sam Copeland on bass, Marty Morrison or John Kizilarmut on drums and, on two songs, vibraphonist Greg Carroll. All of the musicians are world class players. White’s music is modern post-bop jazz that utilizes original chord changes along with some fresh melodies. The opener, “When You Find It,” is a little reminiscent of the music that Keith Jarrett performed in the 1970s when tenor-saxophonist Dewey Redman was in his band. A strong introduction to Merge, this selection has creative tenor, piano, and guitar solos and displays an appealing group sound. “Intuition” has a catchy melody that inspires creative solos while “Cyan” is a modern swinger most notable for the passionate improvisation by the leader. The melancholy ballad “Second Time Around” is a change of pace that has thoughtful playing while “Sweet Baby Sam” features a strong forward momentum and spots for vibes, tenor and guitar that swing hard. “Tunnel Vision” is a little funky and has a rockish guitar solo from Tonelli and along with some particularly adventurous playing from White. “Hiccups” is a happily eccentric piece that is often a bit witty and unpredictable. The program concludes with one of the most memorable selections, “Great Plains.” This original has fast lines in the melody, cooks hard, and features Arthur White playing his own sheets of sound a la Coltrane. The closer could have easily been much longer and leaves one wanting more. Hopefully there will be many encores in the future. When You Find It is easily recommended and is a strong example of inventive modern jazz from Arthur White and Merge.
Scott Yanow, jazz journalist/historian and author of 11 books including Jazz On Record: 1917-76