LENNY WHITE — Big City (review)

LENNY WHITE — Big City album cover Album · 1977 · Funk Jazz Buy this album from MMA partners
3/5 ·
Sean Trane
After the stunning but slightly-derivative Venusian Summer debut album, Lenny comes back with a second effort in the summer of 76, but Big City won’t be released until the following year, and will get a much more urban artwork. With an equally impressive guest list (Herbie, Hammer, Goodman, Auger, Vitous, Schon, Gleeson, Maupin and more, one could have hoped for an equally successful album, but alas no such luck, as BC is definitely more of a later-70’s product than an earlier70’s album. Of course, you’ll still find Lenny both on drums, but also often on keyboards as well.

Opening on the fairly interesting funky title track, where the Power Tower horns and Brian’s Expressed Oblivion shared the spotlight, the album sinks rather low with the syrupy Sweet Dreamer crooning ballad, where only Herbie saves the day with his solo separate the dull and boring Tillery-sung verses. Two short “interludes” follow, the first being a funky piece, while the second (Nocturne) is a sleep-inducing orchestral piece, but both serve as an intro to the ultra-funky instrumental Rapid Transit (slightly reminiscent of Mahavishnu), where Gleeson’s weird electronic wizardry on the ARP underline Herbie’s rapid-fire Rhodes, before another interlude (Ritmo Loco) sees Lenny go at it alone, but only half-successfully.

The flipside opens on the slow-starting Dreams Come, but Gomez and Schon’s “lectric guits” fire it up nicely. The almost 10-mins ambitious 3-part suite Enchanted Pool opens in Maidens with Goodman’s romantic violin and Hammer’s piano, before segueing into the much better Bathe and then sliding into the excellent Ritual finale (despite a lengthy fade-out), thus making the piece the album’s highlight, worthy of his debut album. The closing live-recorded (and dedicated to Miles) Until We Meet Again sees Auger’s Hammond meet Schon’s blistering guitar doubled on the right by Gomez’s for an excellent extravaganza.

While BC has certainly some excellent moments, it certainly doesn’t match VS’ but it easily surpasses what he’ll do next, either in solo or with RTF. But the highlights on the present make BC an album that’s definitely still worth an attentive ear.

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