Guitarist Peter White rose straight to the top with
his debut release in 1990. Nineteen years later,
he is still a favorite in the smooth jazz community. This
month, Smoothviews talks to Peter White about his new
release, his popular Christmas show, and listens as
he takes an introspective look at his enduring and
Smoothviews (SV:) My first question is about
the Bloke & the Blonde tour. Is it still
going on? And, will we be seeing more of that
tour in 2010?
Peter White (PW): You are referring
of course to the shows I’ve been doing all this
year with Mindi Abair. She is the blonde, and
yes, I am the bloke! We have a show coming up on October
15th at the Rehoboth Beach Jazz Festival and there
are already a couple of shows booked for next year.
It looks like it may continue for a while! I
love working with Mindi.
SV: We saw your show with Mindi at
the Berks Jazz Festival in Reading, PA and at the
Birchmere in Alexandria, VA. The music was great,
the crowd was into it, and everyone had a good time!.
PW: That Berks show was actually the
first show of the tour. Mindi and I always have a great
time playing together. On stage she is extremely
feminine but offstage, she’s just one of the
guys. I like that about her. I’m trying to think
of who else I like to tour with - Jeff Golub, he’s
one of my favorites. When we play together it
becomes all about the guitar and I joke to the audience
that we don’t need saxophones- sorry Mindi, I
don’t really mean that! (Laughs)
SV: That would be great to see you guys
all play together. And speaking of Berks,
I was on their website, and they have a list of everyone
who has performed, by year, since the festival began. The
name Peter White appears eight times.
PW: That’s amazing because there
were a while when I didn’t play there, and I
began to think they didn’t like me. (Laughs)
That was going back about five or six years. I
realized that I hadn’t played at Berks for years,
and I didn’t know why.
SV: I think it’s safe to say that
they like you.
PW: And I like them. I love
playing there, and incidentally that was where I first
met Mindi, when she was playing in a band with violinist
Charlie Bisharat. That was probably the first time
I played at Berks Jazz festival and I’m sure
you are now going to tell me when that was!
SV: The first time you played there was
in 1994, fifteen years ago. You returned in ’95,
and then again in ’97, 2000, ’05, ’06, ’08,
and ’09. Next year is their 20th anniversary,
so we’re hoping to see you up there again.
PW: I believe that we are booked for
next year’s festival already! The Berks Jazz
festival is a wonderful event, one of the biggest of
its kind with many artists playing over 3 weeks in
multiple venues. I love playing there.
SV: I’m going to switch gears a little
and talk about the upcoming Dave Koz Christmas tour. Before
you know it, it will be time to get ready for that.
PW: Dave just e-mailed me. You
know he’s getting a star on the Hollywood Walk
of Fame. He invited all of his friends to be
there with him- I’m looking forward to that,
and sometime after he wants us all to get together
to plan the Christmas show; me, Brenda [Russell], David
Benoit, and Rick [Braun]. So yes, I’m just
now starting to think about the Christmas season.
SV: Wow! Christmas comes early.
PW: We plan Christmas way ahead. The
tour dates have been set since early this year, and
we start rehearsals sometime in the middle of November.
Wow- I’m pretty busy till the end of the year!
On the last two days of October I’m playing a
reunion show with Al Stewart in Steelville, Missouri. Then,
I fly to England to do 12 shows in a row. When I return,
we immediately start rehearsals for the Dave Koz Christmas
SV: Where are you playing in England?
PW: I’m playing all over-
some venues on the South Coast of England where I haven’t
played before and then I return for nine shows in a
row at the Pizza Express in London, my home away from
home! I’ve been playing there consistently for
10 years now. Then I fly back to start rehearsals with
Dave Koz. We rehearse all the way up until the
tour starts the day after Thanksgiving. I can
pretty much write off November and December. There’s
no free time at all!Early next year
I will be off to Florida to play on the Smooth Jazz
SV: So, you don’t really have a break
until mid January.
PW: That’s right, but it’s
always good to keep working.
SV: Because you’re doing the Dave
Koz Christmas show, the Peter White Christmas show
will be taking a hiatus this year.
PW: I decided not to do my tour this
year, but Mindi, Rick Braun and I will be back next
year, 2010 [with the Peter White Christmas show.]
SV: I think a lot of people are excited
to see this Dave Koz Christmas show. It’s
a reunion tour. I personally would love to
see the show if it were coming anywhere near me,
but it’s not, so I’m going to have to
PW: Unfortunately there are only so
many days between Thanksgiving and Christmas so I’m
sorry that we can’t play everywhere even though
we would like to.
SV: How does it feel getting the old
gang back together again to do this show?
PW: It will be great to hang out with
old friends and play music together. I haven’t
played with most of them since 2002. That was
the last time we did the Dave Koz tour together. Since
that time, I’ve played many shows with Rick but
it will be great to get together with all of them-
Dave, Brenda, Rick and David Benoit to play music again.
SV: And, as you were saying about your Christmas
show, it will be returning in 2010. We’re all
very happy about that- it’s a lot of fun, the
music is great, and you guys look like you’re
having a good time. Are you really having as
much fun as you appear to be?
PW: We’re all friends and love
playing with each other, Rick, Mindi, and I. We just
love being able to play our music in front of an appreciative
audience. This is what all musicians dream of.
What could be better? I mean, it could be much
worse. I could be in a wedding band playing “Tie
A Yellow Ribbon!” And by the way, that’s
how I started out- playing that song along with other
pop tunes in my very first professional band. That
was in 1974.
SV: Really! (Laughs)
PW: Nowadays I can choose the music
that I want to play, and what’s more I get to
choose the people I work with. How many people
can say that? I’m very lucky.
SV: Your shows seem very free-form; not
a lot of structure.
PW: There is structure, but there
are places where we just let the music happen, just
let the show happen according to how we feel at the
time. So there’s a little bit of both. There
has to be structure in places. You can’t
have a show that’s completely non-structured-
that would be chaotic, but we like to leave a lot of
space in the show for spontaneity.
SV: I think that’s what we like the
most about it besides the music.
PW: We’ve had a chance to develop
my Christmas show over many years, just like with Dave
Koz and his Christmas show, and that makes a difference. When
you rehearse a show, you pretty much just rehearse
the music. That doesn’t mean you have
a show. A show is what develops on stage in
front of an audience and we have now played our Christmas
show, oh, about 135 times over 6 years.
SV: I understand you had a CD release party
PW: Yes, I had a CD release
party in San Diego a couple of nights ago. It
was organized by radio station, FM 98, for their listeners
and it was great to meet the fans and play some of
the new songs. I’m doing two other release
parties, in Charlotte, NC on October 17th, and in Atlanta
on October 18th. All the info will be on my website
soon- www.peterwhite.com. And more shows are
coming in all the time. When I release an album,
it’s a very busy time. Everyone wants
to talk to me. When I released my first album,
I think I did one magazine interview and one radio
SV: Now, everyone is fighting over you.
PW: Which is nice. I must say
that it was strange when I released my first album,
to find that anyone wanted to talk to me. I wasn’t
ready for that. I had confidence in the music,
but I didn’t have any confidence in myself, that
I was interesting enough that anyone wanted to know
SV: When did that happen? When did
the confidence come?
PW: It just happened gradually. Imagine
somebody wanting to interview you and your first response
is, “Why? Who cares? My life is
not that interesting.” Then, I started to accept
that, yes, it is interesting to other people. When
I listen to music, and I like somebody’s music,
I want to know a little bit more about them. So,
I kind of learned along the way that you have to give
a little bit of yourself. It’s not enough
just to make music. You have to show people
that you’re an interesting person, someone they
would like to meet. If people like your music,
then they want to know you as a person.
SV: It goes along with the territory. You’ve
got 12 albums to date. When you tour and perform,
there are certain songs that you know you have to
play. The audience pretty much won’t
let you leave the stage without playing songs like, “Bueno
Funk,” and “Promenade.” Also,
you will play songs from your current release to
familiarize the new music with your audience. How
do you decide what songs to play in your show?
PW: I’m very careful that I
don’t change the show too much all at once. You’ve
got to strike a balance. You want to change the
show from time to time to keep it fresh, but you don’t
want to change it completely. I’ve heard
that Steely Dan go out and they’ll perform one
album, and that’s the show. I don’t
know if I could do that. (Laughs) I try to include
some new songs, but not too many. For instance,
if you consider the previous last album, Playing
Favorites, I only ended up playing two
songs from that album consistently in my show, “Mr.
Magic,” and “What Does It Take.” They
were both radio hits so I took those two songs and
put them right near the beginning of the show. If
I had played more songs from that CD I would have had
to take out some other songs like “Who’s
That Lady”, “Bueno Funk” or some
other favorites. Every now and then I do add “Hit
the Road Jack,” the last song on Playing
Favorites as an encore because it is
such a nice audience participation song. I have
released twelve albums so far and there are certain
songs that people want to hear and I can’t leave
them out of the show. Hey there’s only so much
time you get to do a show. We don’t dictate the
length of the show generally. It’s the
venue manager or the promoter that dictates the length
of the show. There are security people, workers
to clean up after the show, and others that pack up
the equipment. They don’t want to be there
all night! A headline show is usually about 75-90
minutes. Now, to get in all the songs that I
would want to play, I’d have to play for Three
hours, at least. But that hardly ever happens. There
are only a few shows a year where there is no time
limit, and one is coming up soon in Temecula, CA, at
the Thornton Winery. I can pretty much play as long
as I want there, which I love. On the cruise
shows, we’re limited to one hour. And by
the way, at the Birchmere, where you have seen us many
times, we’re not usually limited by time either.
SV: I find it interesting that you say you
usually do two of the songs from your latest CD. Someone
told me they were at a concert a few years back of
an artist who had a really good, new album at the
time. He said he only played one song from
the new album, which I thought was a little odd. Aren’t
you trying to sell CD’s?
PW: Yes we want to sell CDs, but you
want to put on the best show possible. I think that
adding two songs from a new CD is enough for people
to get an idea of whether they will like the whole
CD. After an album has been out a while, you get a
feel for what songs people like; which are their favorite
songs. I will certainly do “Bright,” which
is the first single from the new CD and will probably
be part of the show for a long time. Beyond that I’m
not really sure which other songs to add. I like all
the songs on the new CD and would love to play them
all, but if I do, I run the risk of leaving something
out of the show that people want to hear from my earlier
SV: I want to talk about the new CD. The
songs for this album are songs that you kind of had
in the bank, that were either unfinished, had not
been recorded, or were in various stages.
PW: And I have tons more as well. (Laughs)
Around 1998-2000, I wrote a lot of songs. That’s
all I did, besides a few shows here and there. This
was before [my daughter] Charlotte came along.
SV: (Laugh) When you had more time.
PW: Yes, Charlotte arrived in 2001,
and it was all over, no more free time for a while,
but before that time, all I did was write songs, I’m
talking about writing 50, 60, 70 songs. Of course
some of them weren’t that good, but when I went
back and listened to them a couple of years ago, there
were quite a few that still sounded good to me and
I just decided I wanted to finish these songs and put
them out there. The title track, “Good Day” was
a song started by a friend of mine named Mike Egizi. He
also wrote “Midnight in Manhattan,” and “Venice
Beach” with me some years back, which both got
a lot of radio play. About ten years ago he gave me
two great tracks- one was “Turn It Out,” which
we used on Glow, and the
other was “Good Day.” I had written a
melody for “Good Day,” but never used on
any CD until now. It just became one more song that
I had in the stockpile and for this CD, rather than
writing a whole lot of new songs, I decided to use
a whole lot of songs from the vault, as it were!
SV: Well, they’re new to us.
PW: You’re right- they’re
new to everybody in the world except me!
SV: You worked a lot with Philippe Saisse
on this CD.
PW: I took the music as far as I could
working with my engineer, DC, He is an engineer/producer;
a guy that I met while working with Paul Brown. He
was Paul Brown’s assistant, and a computer whiz. You
need someone like that around because everything is
recorded now with computers and they do break down!
But I realized that I needed some more musical help
and one day I was talking to Rick Braun and he said, “Why
don’t you give Philippe Saisse a call? He’ll
help you,” so I called Phillipe and he said, “Yes,
I can help you. Just give me some songs and I’ll
see what I can do.” So, that’s what
I did. I gave him the first seven songs on
the album and he worked on them in his studio, and soon
he had completely transformed the songs. He added different
sounds and different rhythms and it sounded so much better
to me- these songs which had been floating in my head
for years suddenly came alive. He also introduced
me to Simon Phillips, who is an English drummer, quite
legendary among musicians. He’s been the drummer
for Toto for about 15 years, he’s played with the
Who, plus, he’s English, and I liked that. So we
had Simon play on some songs, which kicked them up again
a few notches.
SV: You’ve already answered my next
question, what did Philippe Saisse bring to this
PW: It was a joy working with Philippe
because he just took what I’d done and made it
so much better. He polished it. For instance,
if you listen to the very beginning of the first song, “Good
Day,” that’s Philippe; he added all of
the lush keyboard sounds. Then, if you listen
to the end of the song, and you hear a vibraphone solo,
that’s Philippe too. When you listen to
the intro to the next song, “Always, Forever,” that’s
Philippe playing the keyboard again. The intro
that I had worked up originally was quite lame, and
he just transformed it! In some cases, he left the
keyboard that I had done originally, like on “Temptation.” And
on some songs he added sound effects, like on “Mission
2 Mars,” where he added all the NASA mission
control space talk. By the way, Philippe is French,
both Simon Phillips and I are English, and DC is from
Croatia. This album is like a European conspiracy
SV: Mission 2 Mars is an interesting track. That,
to me, doesn’t sound like a Peter White song. It
took me by surprise a little.
PW: I love that. To me,
it’s a typical Peter White song except that the
way it starts is with no guitar, for about the first
minute and instead you hear sound effects and then
this driving beat, which is when the rocket engines
start firing up. Philippe found all the NASA
recordings of the original moon and I’ve been
assured that they are public and can be used by anybody.
If not then we’re all going to be arrested for
stealing government property- (laughs). The guitar
melody was the last thing I came up with for this song,
almost as an afterthought, and I often think that the
song would work quite well without the guitar. That
gives me an idea, that I could release it as a dance
record and leave the guitar out completely, because
the song is all about the drumbeat, the bass line and
this wacky keyboard riff which repeats every two measures.
That’s how I wrote the song. You can always tell
how I wrote a song because of the way it starts out-
whether it’s a drumbeat or a bass line or a keyboard
riff- that’s usually how I wrote it. One exception
is “Bright”. The intro with the high bass
line actually came when the song was almost finished
because I realized that I needed a better intro than
what I had.
SV: “Bright,” is the first single
from the new CD, and you dedicated it to Wayman Tisdale. That’s
perfect. His smile had a way of lighting up
the whole room.
PW: Wayman passed away when I was
recording the song, so I was thinking about him a lot. I’d
already called it “Bright” from way back. I
don’t even remember writing this song because
it was so long ago, and I don’t know why I named
it “Bright,” but it just sounded happy
to me. It’s a happy song and almost old
fashioned in a way. There’s nothing really
hip about it. It’s very retro, something
I could have recorded on my first album, but it just
reminded me of Wayman. He was so bright. And
the way it starts with the bass; the very first note
you hear is a high bass note. That’s the
way he used to play. He played everything on
the high string of the bass, because he used it as
a melodic instrument and that way he could heard above
the band. He was always happy, always optimistic,
even when he was ill. I had so much admiration
for him as a person.
SV: You also worked on the new CD with Polish
singer Basia and your brother, Danny. Tell us the
story behind “Love Will Find You.”
PW: Well they sent me this song, which
was supposed to be for Basia’s record. As
in pretty much every song I’ve ever worked on
with Basia, there was no melody when I first heard
it. They just sent me a track with no melody
on it except a little scat singing, and I liked the
track and what little singing there was, and so I recorded
my own melody.
SV: You just incorporated that into what
they had done.
PW: Yes, and I sent it back to Danny
and said, ‘What do you think of that?’ He
said, “That’s very nice. Why don’t
you do your version of the song, and we’ll do
ours and we’ll put both out.” So,
we recorded both versions.
I added a lot of background guitar rhythm parts, which
were used on both versions and I took mine at a slightly
faster tempo. When I finished it I realized that
I still needed something more to kick it up at the end
so I asked Basia to sing the chorus ‘Love will
find you” at the end of the song, which is not
where a chorus usually appears, but in this case it seemed
to work. As it turned out, they didn’t release
their version, at least not to my knowledge- it was called “Oh
Mama.” Incidentally, this is the first song that
Danny, Basia and I have ever written together!
SV: The other one I really like
is “Ramon’s Revenge.”
PW: I originally called the song “Lamont’s
Lament,” because there’s a really sad part
in the middle of the song, but “Ramon’s
Revenge” just sounded like a better title to
me and better describes the story behind this song.
The way I see it, Ramon and Lamont are friends who
both love the same girl. One night they are all at
a big celebration party, everyone is dancing and in
all the excitement, Lamont slips away with the girl.
He obviously has a very convincing way with words!
Ramon realizes that they are both missing and becomes
very sad, that the girl that arrived with him would
leave with another man. At that point the music gets
very quiet, the guitar drops out and you just hear
the lonely piano. Ramon has walked away from
all the revelry and is wondering whether he should
just accept what has happened and move on. But the
music starts to build again and he thinks, hell no
I’m not going to accept this. I’m going
to fight for her. At this moment, the music explodes.
Our hero, Ramon, jumps onto his horse, rides off to
find Lamont, his supposed friend who stole his girl,
beats him up, lifts the girl onto his horse and rides
off into the sunset. At the very end of the song, you
can actually hear them galloping away. So you
see, although the song has a sad part, it ends up happy,
except for Lamont (laughs) who loses the girl, as well
as his friend.
SV: When I listened to it, I thought of
flamenco dancers and the sound of their feet when
PW: Yes, there are handclaps and castanets. It’s
a very flamenco sounding song, which is why in the
story I pictured people dancing. I’m not big
on flamenco music but in this case I think I’ve
added my own twist, musically.
SV: The last song on the CD is “Say
Goodnight.” It’s a very quiet song- does
it have any special meaning for you?
PW: It’s a song that you can
only really put at the end of an album. Every song
has a mood, and this one reminds me of two old friends
saying goodnight. Way back when I played in Al Stewart’s
band, he would say at the end of the show “Say
goodnight to Peter White.” I’d wave
to the audience and leave the stage. Al would
finish the show on his own, and I always thought this
was a nice way to end the show. So the phrase “Say
Goodnight” comes from that time and always stuck
in my head. Al Stewart and I worked together for almost
20 years. I gained a lot of experience in terms of
composing, recording and performing and I remember
those days very fondly.
SV: And you’ve been doing it ever
since. Did you ever think you’d get to
where you are today?
PW: No I really didn’t. I
knew I wanted to be a musician and I was quite happy
hearing my guitar on the radio when I was playing with
either Basia or Al Stewart, and then one day I heard
this English band Acoustic Alchemy. They were playing
acoustic guitar music and it sounded like the kind
of music that I played and that was the first time
that I thought that maybe I could make my own music. Then
I could get a bit more recognition for what I was doing. People
were hearing my guitar playing but most of the listening
audience didn’t know who I was. So I knew
that I had to make an album and put my name on the
front. When I recorded it, it didn’t sound
to me like anything that was being played on the radio. I
had no idea if it would ever get played on the radio,
but it did. I have to thank my friend Cliff Gorov,
from All That Jazz Inc. who worked hard to promote
my music to radio stations back then, and continues
to this day.
SV: You’ve been doing this a long
PW: I’ve been lucky. I’ve
found a way to play music that I like, and there are
people that want to listen to it.
SV: You can’t ask for much more.
PW: No, you certainly can’t.
SV: Well, thank you for chatting with me
this afternoon, Peter.
SV: I look forward to seeing you again. Let
me add that your new CD, Good Day, is out and is available
for purchase. You can check Peter’s website, www.peterwhite.com for
the latest tour information.
PW: It’s been my pleasure!