Certainly cool (but not necessarily ‘smooth’)

Certainly cool (but not necessarily ‘smooth’)

Guitarist Peter White at the Schuster Center

By Benjamin Smith
Photo: Guitarist Peter White joins the Summer Breeze Jazz Tour at the Schuster Center on Friday, June 28

He has probably never set a Fender Stratocaster on fire à la Jimi Hendrix, or been called “God,” like Eric Clapton, but make no mistake: Peter White is a guitar virtuoso. His style just happens to be more refined than others; his sound, a little softer. On Friday, June 28, White will display his acoustic skill and sensibility for Daytonians when he joins pianists Joe Sample and Alex Bugnon for the Summer Breeze Jazz Tour at the Schuster Center’s Mead Theatre. The native Briton/current Los Angeleno, and co-writer of a Top 10 single – Al Stewart’s “Time Passages” – took time out of his busy tour schedule to chat with us about – among other things – meeting the members of Queen, seeing the value of music decrease and being zen with pesky journalists who love to use labels.

Your most recent album, Here We Go (2012), is considered a polished work of smooth jazz. Still, when some people hear the words “smooth jazz” – especially in relation to the words “acoustic guitar” – they might get a false impression, a wrong idea. How hard is it for you to transcend genre connotations and categorizations?

“Smooth Jazz” is a radio format … a term that was coined around 1995 by radio programmers who wanted to brand their stations. Around the time the term was first being used, I had been playing guitar for more than 30 years and already released four solo CDs, so I didn’t really take much notice of it. (Laughs) I still don’t! I really don’t know what people think when they hear “smooth jazz” followed by “acoustic guitar.” It’s all beyond my control. And being a musician, I just go about making the best music I can and let the radio stations and journalists like yourself try to describe it! (laughs) -Peter White

What is the present state of jazz, smooth or otherwise?

It’s very healthy, and many young people are playing instrumental jazz – I meet them all the time. The only thing is, recorded music has much less value today then when I started as a professional musician, almost 40 years ago. YouTube has changed everything … you can listen to just about any music for free. This means that many of the young musicians I meet are not going to be able to make a living playing music. As soon as you release a CD or play a live concert, someone puts it on YouTube for the entire world to enjoy. I’m really quite glad that I came up playing music when music had value. -PW

You toured and recorded with singer-songwriter Al Stewart, and co-wrote his 1978 hit, “Time Passages.” Speaking of time: have your thoughts and feelings about that song, and its significance, changed or evolved over the years?

That song changed my life, of course. It was the first time that I had written a song with Al Stewart and it became the most successful song we ever wrote together. It has become a calling card for me over the years, as most people around my age know the song and remember hearing it on the radio, and I can say, “Yes, I co-wrote that!” -PW

You also opened for Queen, correct?

That was in 1975. I had just started playing with Al Stewart. It was all new to me – on that tour I stayed in a hotel for the first time in my life and flew on a commercial jet plane for the first time. It was all very exciting and I felt I was on a roller coaster. All I remember about that night was meeting Queen in their dressing room after the show and not knowing what to say. They were rock stars, and I was a 20-year-old newcomer. -PW

How does one transition from being a rock guitarist to a jazz guitarist? What was the journey like for you?

I starting appreciating acoustic guitar in my late teens, and when I met Al Stewart at the age of 20, he didn’t know I could play guitar. He hired me to play keyboards, which I did for a whole tour. When it became time to start recording [1976 album] Year of the Cat, Stewart had realized that I could play guitar, so he put a nylon string acoustic guitar in my hand and said, “Play this!” When I recorded my first solo CD, I chose to use a nylon string acoustic guitar because it had become my signature sound through my years with Al. I actually don’t hear a transition to what I am doing now. I don’t play any differently now than I did; it’s just that I am now playing the melody more, as there is little or no singing [in my music]. Oh, and I don’t consider myself a jazz guitarist. Never did! -PW

So what can we expect from your performance on June 28?

An energetic, entertaining show with some surprises and many songs that people know and love – not just songs I have written. I always play some my favorite songs from the 1970’s, which I consider the best time for music. -PW

The Summer Breeze Jazz Tour featuring Joe Sample, Alex Bugnon and Peter White will be held on Friday, June 28 at the Schuster Center, 1 W. Second St. Doors at 7:30 p.m. Tickets are $48, $42, or $36. For tickets, call 937.228.3630, or visit ticketcenterstage.com. For more information, visit peterwhite.com.

Reach DCP freelance writer Benjamin Smith at BenjaminSmith@DaytonCityPaper.com.


Tags: , ,

No comments yet.

Leave a Reply

Home. Grown. History.

Troy celebrates 200 years by Janell Ward Photo: A group of friends spends time in Troy in 1888; photo: Troy […]

Biplanes and barnstormers

WACO Museum Fly-In lands in Troy by Andy Hertel Photo: A row of vintage biplanes on display in Troy; photo: […]

One good eye

Cyclops Festival returns for fourth DIY year By Tim Anderl Photo: Cyclops Festival, the handmade art and apparel event, will take […]

Causing an uproar

Godsmack shreds across the country By Alan Sculley Photo: Godsmack will perform on Aug. 17 at Riverbend Music Center in Cincinnati […]

Yellow Springs Theater Company

New company of professionals pushes theatrical boundaries By Joyell Nevins Photo: The Yellow Springs Theater Company rehearses D’Arc Comedy by wanda […]

Give it a spin

Whirled Festival of Tops By Jennifer Hanauer Lumpkin Photo: The festivities begin at 5 p.m. in the area north of the […]