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November 2006

Peter White
Playin' Favorites
Columbia/Legacy

The current rush of contemporary jazz cover albums has gotten to the point where artists are wary of disclosing track listings in advance in case a competitor is contemplating the same song. Recently, two heavyweights jostled to get the same classic 1970s songs onto the charts, which would never do. One had to back down.

Of course, anyone going up against Peter White surely would yield to the Man, as he is the undisputed champ of cover tunes. Eleven years ago, the nylon-string guitarist with the sweet fingerpicking style released a CD called Reflections that boasted two No. 1 smooth-jazz hits. Now, White, who says he found demos of songs that didn’t make that CD when rooting around the house, has already scored another No. 1 from the slyly named follow-up, a can’t-get-it-out-of-your-head take on Jr. Walker’s “What Does It Take (To Win Your Love).” White obviously wanted to make these songs from the ’70s, ’80s and ’90s his own. And for the most part he has, such as on the Isley Brothers’ sing-songy “For the Love of You,” a funkified and brassy version of Grover Washington Jr.’s “Mister Magic” and a finger-snapping guitar-and-bass take on “Hit the Road, Jack,” including a hip vocal choir of White, producer Paul Brown, Roberto Vally and DC.

Elsewhere, though, White’s magic can’t distinguish “One and One” and “Deja Vu” from dentist's-chair aural anesthesia. A better project, perhaps, might have been Playin' Favorites and a Few Not-So-Favorites You Haven’t Heard a Million Times.

Originally published in November 2006
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