LENNY WHITE — The Love Has Never Gone: Tribute to Earth, Wind & Fire (as Lenny White Project) (review)

LENNY WHITE — The Love Has Never Gone: Tribute to Earth, Wind & Fire (as Lenny White Project) album cover Album · 2000 · Post Bop Buy this album from MMA partners
3.5/5 ·
js
I didn’t know what to expect when I saw that Lenny White had recorded a CD of Earth Wind and Fire tunes. Certainly the complex jazzy pop of EW&F could lend itself to all manner of exotic arrangements and tone colors, but White and his crew decided not to go that direction and instead used the EW&F melodies as simple lead tunes for some modern post bop jamming ala a live club type scenario. In fact, on many of these tunes its hard to tell they are playing EW&F at all, they could just as well be jamming out on any tune from the fake book. The two ballads, “After the Love is Gone” and “Spirit”, as well as “Fantasy” are probably the ones that stay recognizable from start to finish, but that’s not to say that freeing things up on the other tunes is a bad thing at all. Although my hopes and expectations had leaned towards wanting to hear some creative arrangements, going the simple route and treating this like a bar gig may have been the best way to avoid excessive pretensions.

All that nitpicking aside, the playing on here is great. For being an early 21st century post bop record, this one has a lot of life and energy, there is no pastel-by-the-numbers clichés. On every track the band digs in hard and reaches for their best, pushing each other along. Lenny is not the most subtle drummer in the world, but he still has plenty of drive and is apt to reach into his old rockin/fusion thunder approach when the band gets worked up. Lots of great talent on here, but possibly the star of the show is guitarist Bireli Lagrene, an interesting choice for this project as he is usually known for his Django tributes.
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