Alan “Chip” White was born on December 21, 1946 in New York City. He began studying percussion and music with his father at the age of nine, and studied theory and harmony with Vincent Corzine while in high school. Mr. White then continued his formal education at Ithaca College and later at the Berklee School of Music in Boston, MA, where he studied with Alan Dawson, Charlie Marino, and Herb Pomeroy. He also studied privately with Freddie Buda of the Boston Symphony. Later, he studied orchestration and arranging with Frank Foster.
Since moving back to New York City in 1970, Mr. White has performed and/or recorded with a variety of artists, including Carman McCrae, Jaki Byard, the Jazzmobile CETA Big Band, Candido, John Abercrombie, Frank Wess, Frank Foster, Frank Vicari, John Faddis, Chet Baker, Bill Hardman, Junior Cook, Claudio Roditi, Dave Liebman, James Moody, Tom Waits, Kim & Marion, Enrico Rava, Jimmy McGriff, Mulgrew Miller, Gary Bartz, John Hicks, Walter Bishop Jr., Ronnie Matthews, Al Grey, Benny Powell, Teddy Edwards, Craig Handy, Klaus Ignatzek, Houston Person and Etta Jones, Irene Reid, and Savion Glover.
Mr. White has toured extensively throughout the United States, Canada, Europe, and Japan. He has also performed on television shows such as “What’s My Line?,” “The Mike Douglas Show,” “The Dinah Shore Show,” “Saturday Night Live,” “Live at Five,” and “The Molly Dodd Show”.
In 1990, Mr. White co-wrote and produced the jazz musical Manhattan Moments with choreographer Kathy Sanson.
In October 1994, Mr. White released Harlem Sunset (Postcards 1006), his first CD as a leader and composer, as well as drummer. Describing his work on this recording, Mr. White explains that “music, for me, is a liberating force, and I want to write and play music that will make people feel better by opening them up to their own thoughts as well as to mine.”
On Harlem Sunset, the visionary drummer/composer brought together an exiting and talented group of musicians to accomplish this goal. Together, saxophonist Gary Bartz, trombonist Robin Eubanks, vibist Steve Nelson, trumpeter Claudio Roditi, and bassist Buster Williams, as well as Mr. White, bring energy and enthusiasm to six of the drummer’s original compositions and to a tune by Roditi and a classic version of Billy Eckstine’s “I Want to Talk About You.” “I was fortunate to get these great artists to join me on Harlem Sunset,” says Mr. White, “and I’m really very happy with the wonderful musical contributions they made.”
“All the tunes I write,” he continues, “come out of some personal experience. My composition 'Club 609' reflects my feelings about playing at that legendary Harlem after-hours club — to me, it felt like revisiting the Harlem Renaissance. And 'Harlem Sunset' itself grew out of my return to Harlem, where I was born; I experienced a kind of rebirth, coming back to where I began, and found myself writing that tune.”
Mr. White’s second CD, Music and Lyrics was released in September 2005. He wrote, arranged, and produced all the compositions on this CD. It features the wonderful voice of Gail Allen and the lush tenor saxophone sound of Houston Person, along with pianist Lafayette Harris and bassist George Kaye.
In 2008, Mr. White released Double Dedication, a two-disc set. Disc 1 includes his original compositions written for famous jazz masters such as Lester Young, Duke Ellington, Charlie Parker, Dizzy Gillespie, and Billy Strayhorn – thirteen in all. The musicians are Steve Wilson, Randy Brecker, Wycliffe Gordon, Kenny Barron, Ray Drummond, Gail Allen, and Mr. White. On, the second, shorter disc, Mr. White reads poems from I’m Just the Drummer in the Band for each of the thirteen musicians, in the same order as the compositions on the first disc, with the music sequenced underneath. This unique and exciting recording, released in May 2008, was on the JazzWeek Jazz Album radio charts for six weeks, reaching number 27.
Mr. White’s latest recording, More Dedications, is Volume II of the project begun with Double Dedication. Released in May 2009, it features original compositions (Disc 1) and poems (Disc 2) for nine more jazz giants, including Miles Davis, Milt Jackson, Joe Henderson, and Bobby Hutcherson. The musicians are Mulgrew Miller, Steve Nelson, Wycliffe Gordon, Peter Washington, Duane Eubanks, Patience Higgins, and Chip White.
Since 1993, Mr. White has been touring the United States, Europe, Japan, and the Caribbean, including performing at festivals and on jazz cruises, with The Houston Person and Etta Jones Quintet, and since 2001 with the Houston Person Quartet. In the past several years, he has appeared on Houston Person’s albums In a Sentimental Mood Social Call, and To Etta With Love; Etta Jones’ Easy Living and the Grammy-nominated Etta Jones Sings Lady Day; and Teddy Edwards’ Midnight Creeper, Ladies Man, and Smooth Sailing, all on the High Note record label. His composition “Time Stood Still” is featured on Houston Person’s All Soul.
Mr. White recently reinvigorated the Chip White Ensemble with gigs at Dizzy's Coca Cola/Jazz at Lincoln Center, Sweet Rhythm, and the Lenox Lounge in New York City,Cecil’s in Orange, NJ, the John Birks Gillespie Auditorium at the Bahá’í Center in New York City, the Woodstock Guild in Woodstock, NY, and the Kavehaz and Scandinavia House in New York City. The original Chip White Ensemble performed at the Blue Note, Seventh Avenue South, the West End Café, the Jazz Center of New York, Birdland, the Peekskill Jazz Festival, the Hartford Jazz Festival, Vassar College, and Trumpets.
Mr. White has also written a book of poems about jazz musicians entitled I’m Just the Drummer in the Band.