Acoustic guitarist Peter White, a self-described reformed rocker, loves to play tunes and melodies that people like, and the pop world is where his musical foundations were established and still remain. So it’s understandable that White’s blood pressure rises a bit when jazz critics accuse him of not being jazzy enough.
“That’s the main basis on which they criticize our music, and it’s totally unfair. One doesn’t go to a Barry Manilow concert and then complain that it wasn’t jazz. He never said it was jazz! And I never said I was jazz!”
Jazz or not, White is riding a wave of success that now includes the release of his sixth recording, Perfect Moment, on Columbia, with guest horn men Grover Washington, Jr., Gerald Albright, Rick Braun, and Greg Vail.
Conversing with saxophones has been a White trademark since the mid-1970s when he worked with pop star Al Stewart. It was White who urged the inclusion of the sax on Stewart’s hit, “Year of the Cat,” and the success of the tune was pivotal in bringing the sax back into pop music favor.
White, now 44, realizes that contemporary jazz popularity has enabled him to become more than a background musician. He is now an entertainer. “I can now step out and play my own music, make CDs, and have good audiences. Things have all turned around and it’s why some critics have a problem.
“I did Stevie Wonder’s “My Cherie Amour” on my 1994 recording, Reflections. That’s my world—the pop music world. People relate to that tune and they sing along when I play it. All of a sudden, the debate about what is jazz and what isn’t becomes irrelevant, because I have an audience having a great time and just enjoying life.
“That, to me, is what music is all about.”