Wednesday, June 28, 2017

Twennynine with Lenny White – Fancy Dancer

Lost but not least! Twennynine with Lenny White – Fancy Dancer (Elektra)

We’ll never thank enough Frankie Crocker for the such influential role he had on WBLS 107.5. As not only he helped catapult this Black Music format radio station, to the No. 1 in New York City. But also (and maybe even more) because he considerably pushed things that wouldn’t have got airing otherwise.

Frankie Crocker was most likely to the radio what Larry Levan was to club play. A taste maker with a rare sense of artistry. Living in Paris at the time, there was no way I could ever tune in to WBLS. Thankfully enough, I would get tapes sent to me from a week to another. Which is how I got to discover so many gems. With ‘Fancy Dancer’ makin’ no exception.

I instantly stumble upon its flow which, to me, had something of George Duke. From the vocals, with Tanya Willoughby sharing the lead with bassist Barry ‘Sonjon’ Johnson. To its arragements featuring horns under the direction of Jorge Del Barrio. All in all making of ‘Fancy Dancer’ a timeless top class joint.

Fancy Dancer… Just what it says!

Overview
NYC-born self-taught drummer Lenny White first appeared in local groups before joining Jackie McLean by the end of the 60’s. He eventually gave his contribution to the recording of Miles Davis‘ ‘Bitches Brew’ album in 1969. The year after, he appeared on Freddie Hubbard‘s seminal ‘Red Clay’ album.

Lenny White recorded 3 albums with Azteca (in 1972, 1973 and 2008) before joining Chick Corea‘s Return To Forever. He stayed with the band for 3 years, eventually working with some of the who’s who of Jazz artists in the meantime. From Joe Henderson to Gato Barbieri, Stanley Clarke and Eddie Henderson among others. Then after the breakup of RTF, he headed various projects of his own.

He explored groovier territories while giving birth to Twennynine in 1979. The group released 3 albums without generating a great following, to the exception of the memorable ‘Fancy Dancer’. A cut which Frankie Crocker heavily championed back then on WBLS. Lenny White went further on under his own name with the 1993 ‘Attitude’ album. An album most likely remembered for ‘Didn’t Know About Love (Till I Found You)’ featuring Bernard Wright on piano and Marcus Miller on bass.

He later became one of The Jamaica Boys, along with Wright, Marcus Miller and Dinky Bingham. And together, they released 2 albums in 1987 and 1990.

Still active, Lenny White could be seen jamming along with Buster Williams at the 2016 Oslo Jazzfestival.

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