"I wanted to make a recording of all original music and lyrics," says drummer, composer, and lyricist Chip White, "so I could tell a story, which is what all music should do. I wrote "Blues for Cousin Alice," for example, for my cousin, actress, author, and playwright Alice Childress, after attending a ceremony where she received an award. She was a very positive influence in many ways, but especially in the area of lyrical approach."
Chip White began studying percussion and music with his father at the age of nine, and moved on to music theory and harmony with Vincent Corzine in high school. He was very fortunate at this time to hear in person such jazz greats as Count Basie, Miles Davis, Max Roach, Dizzy Gillespie, John Coltrane, Thelonious Monk, Charles Mingus, and Sonny Rollins. Their influence was indelible. At Berklee School of Music, he studied with Alan Dawson, Charlie Mariano, and Herb Pomeroy, and privately with Freddie Buda of the Boston Symphony. He later studied orchestration and arranging with Frank Foster.
"When I moved back to New York," Chip notes, "I was fortunate to live in a very significant musicians' building on 19th Street. During the 70s loft scene period, such musicians as Dave Liebman, Michael Brecker, and Chick Corea lived in the building, and I ended up in the apartment that Dave Holland vacated. This environment gave me the inspiration to begin my career as a composer."
Chip explains that he wrote many of the tunes on "Music and Lyrics" earlier, and then started "hearing" lyrics that fit with his music to make a complete statement. "Maybe I had something to prove on a subliminal level," he adds, "because percussionists often do not get taken seriously as composers, even though some of the finest composers in jazz -- and other musical genres -- have been drummers." As examples, he lists Tony Williams, Joe Chambers, Jack DeJohnette, pop singer Phil Collins, and even Marvin Gaye, who started his Motown career as a drummer.
Chip White has performed and/or recorded with such diverse artists as Carman McCrae, Irene Reid, Jaki Byard, Candido, John Abercrombie, Frank Wess, John Faddis, Bill Hardman, Junior Cook, Claudio Roditi, Dave Leibman, James Moody, Tom Waits, Kim & Mariod, Enrico Rava, Jimmy McGriff, Mulgrew Miller, Gary Barz, John Hicks, Walter Bishop Jr., Craig Handy, Ronnie Matthews, Dave Hubbard, Dave Binney, Al Grey, Teddy Edwards, Klaus Ignatzek, and Houston Person and Etta Jones. He has toured extensively throughout the United States, Canada, the Caribbean, Europe, and Japan.
In 1994, Chip recorded "Harlem Sunset," featuring six of his original compositions, with Gary Bartz, Robin Eubanks, Claudio Roditi, Steve Nelson, and Buster Williams. In 1990, he co-wtore and produced the jazz musical "Manhattan Momements" with choreographer Kathy Sanson. He has also written a book of poems about jazz musicians entitled "I'm Just the Drummer in the Band," and performed live and radio readings of these poems in the United States and Europe.
"In my different ensembles," Chip says, "I've worked with many vocalists, but when I heard Gail Allen sing, her voice seemed perfect for the style of music I was writing. Her sound adds a depth to my music that I really appreciate, and I'm grateful to her and to the other artists who helped bring this project to fruition."
The Chip White Ensemble has been performing in various configurations around the greater New York area for the past several years. Performances often also include a poetry reading. "With this recording," Chip says, "I hope to bring my music and lyrics to a larger national and international audience."
Chip White's first album -- a Critic's Choice in "Billboard" -- is "Harlem Sunset," and is also available on CD Baby at www.cdbaby.com/chipwhite2.