* * * * (four stars)
Drummer White has managed to create and context and repertoire where his playing is pivotal but does not engulf the proceedings on this excellernt album, one that recalls the early work of Tony Williams for the Blue Note label in its lucid ensemble sound. That sound is shaped by White's juxtabposition of three horns (trumpet, trombone, and saxophone) against a rhythm section of only bass (Buster Williams), his drums and vibes, with Steve Nelson playing the latter in a spiky fashion, creating off-rhythms to complement White's flowing drum patterns.
White's drumming can be almost cubistic in its crips edginess as he pointilistically builds rolling polyrhythms, as in the multi-odd-metered (6/4 and 3/6?) "Another Planet," where a cinematically heroic, heraldic theme courses over ripping drum patterns that continue behind horn solos inspired by the cubistic rhythmic motif. He takes a more supple tack on his own "Excuse Me Now," bringing a seductive flow to the 5/4 time signature made famous by Dave Brubeck to coax smooth solos from trumpeter Claudio Roditia and alto saxophonist Gary Bartz.
White reinvents the racing 8/8 of fusion on "The Wizard," horns singing a floating theme over the sweetly rolling rhythm, alternating with a swinging 4/4 during bright solos by trombonist Robin Eubanks, vibist Nelson, and alto saxist Bartz. There are also interludes of 4/4 during the solos on the waltz "Circle Dance," deftly arranged to emphasize Bartz's lead soprano sax.
Besides presinting a panoply of drum rhythms, times, and techniques (his burnished brush work on the Billy Eckstine ballad "I Want to Talk About You"), White presents an engaging program of mostly originals here, creatively arranged to present challenges for the soloists, who are aptly chosen for each piece. It makes for a thoroughly enjoyable, memorable album.
George Kanzler - Newark Star Ledger, November 18, 1994 (Nov 28, 2005)
Sound Quality 8
You've never heard of Chip White. Buy "Harlem Sunset" anyway. It has Claudio Roditi and Gary Bartz and Robin Eubanks, battle-proven warriors all. It has strong new lines on which to improvise (composed by White), solos which flame with passion, and startling immediacy. And it has a secret weapon. Bassist Buster Williams throbs and twitches at the center of every song like a shaman inciting bedevilment.
White is a drummer with interesting concepts of how percussion can drive an ensemble without overwhelming it. He is an omnipresence, but he never keeps time. He lashes his cymbals by way of rhythmic inference and continuous commentary. His songs are all muscular, charging anthems, yet varied. "Another Planet" starts with drums alone and adds one horn at a time, setting off a cacophany which does not cohere into the theme for almost three minutes. "Club 609" (a Harlem venue where White gigs) is fond but definitely not sentimental. The minor motif of "The Wizard" evokes ominous ambiguities. (The Wizard, surely, is Buster Williams, pulsing like a heart of darkness.)
The solos tell the tale. Trumpeter Roditi is one of the most original thinkers in jazz. His brief statement on "Excuse Me Now" finds sudden gleaming shapes at every turn. The album's only standard is "I Want to Talk About You." Bartz cries it out alone on luminous alto saxophone. Eubanks' trombone solo on "The Wizard" is a ritual dance full of stutter steps, a mysterious call, a summons.
"Harlem Sunset" is a very promising start for Chip White and a new jazz label, Postcards.
Thomas Conrad - New Music, April 1995
Recording: Very Good
When I heard the self-indulgent intro to drummer Chip White's "Harlem Sunset," I thought I was in for an ear-pounding experience. I was wrong. Although White does hog the long opening selection, even when his sidemen step up front, the rest of the album could almost be considered and exercise in percussive restraint. (Don't misconstrue -- I'm not criticizing a drummer for expressing himself on his own album, but they do tend to go overboard.) This is White's first album as a leader, and he gives ample room to his horn players -- trumpeter Claudio Roditi, saxophonist Gary Bartz, and trombonist Robin Eubanks -- all of whom use the space to advantage (theirs and ours). This cohesive group's ensemble sound harks back to the Fifties and Sixties, but the individual statements, especially those from Bartz and Eubanks, bring it into the present. Bassist Buster Williams and vibist Steve Nelson round out the quintet and help the leader keep the rhythm flowing unobtrusively.
Stereo Review, March 1995
In fact, it was when Chip was performing with Etta [Jones] and Houston [Person] at the Top O'The Senator [that] I had the pleasure of meeting him. I found Chip brimming with enthusiasm about his music, especially his new CD, and poetry, yes I said poetry. I will get to that shortly. First the CD, Chp White Harlem Sunset, on a new independent label, Postcards Inc. . . . Six of the eight numbers on this recording are by Chip, and a credit to him as a proficient composer, nice stuff. The other pleasant surprise was Chip's book of jazz poems entitled I'm Just the Drummer in the Band . . . These poems actually swing, you can almost hear Chip behind them playing drums.
Dave Milbourne, July/August 1998 - Toronto Jazz
* * * (three stars)
"Harlem Sunset," White's debut as a leader, contains inspired writing for sextet. Most of the tunes, all substantive, are White originals. Steve Newlson's vibes in place of a piano or guitar gives the band a different harmonic ring and shine in the rhythm section. White's formidable fills and solos suggest a combination of Blakey, former Cream Drummer Ginger Baker, and avant-garde drummer Sonny Murray. White studied with Alan Dawson, the famous jazz drummer and teacher from Boston. The horns are all first-class hard-boppers, alto and soprano saxophonist Gary Bartz, trumpeter and fluegelhorn player Claudio Roditi, and trombonist Robin Eubanks. Bassist Buster Williams anchors the bottom with resilient walking and commentary.
Owen Cordle - Raleigh (NC) News Observer
* * * * (four stars)
Drummer Chip White has been around, and the opening drum solo of "Another Planet" isn't shy about telling you this is a drummer's date. But the best thing about it is the A-level group -- trombonist Robin Eubanks, bassist Buster Williams, vibraphonist Steve Nelson, trumpeter Claudio Roditi, and Gary Bartz, a superb alto saxophonist almost as deserving of a comeback as Sonny Fortune (who got one earlier in the year with his superb Monk record on Blue Note). It's on a gutsy and tasty and wonderfully promising label run by Ralph Simon with the obvious aim of letting bold and often brilliant players have their say unimpeded. Bartz carried Jackie McLean's tone to all sorts of brilliant post-Coltrane places, and is still doing it, even though his reputation perversely refuses to rise. There is superlative playing all through "Harlem Sunset," expecially from Bartz (e.g., "I Want to Talk About You," with Nelson and Williams.
Jeff Simon - Buffalo (NY) News, December 23, 1994
Chip White Beats Vibrant Messages
Chip White's father used to tall the story about taking Chip to church when he was just a toddler. "I hadn't been to Mass in so long that I wouldn't have been surprised if the priest hadn't remembered my name. But he couldn't forget us because when Chip saw all those candles burning on the altar, my son started singing. "Happy Birthday! Happy Birthday!"
Of course, you never knew whether it was true or not because Al and his father, Charles White, before him, were great storytellers, but one thing he was serious about -- and still is -- that practice makes perfect. On Harrison Avenue in Peekskill, where Chip grew up, when strangers passing through would look anxiously at the sky when they suddenly heard the roll of thunder, or duck, expecting a gangfight when they heard what they thought was the staccato burst of a machine gun, neighbors just shrugged and said, "That's no thunder -- no machine gun either. That's just Algernon White and his son, Chipper, practicing their drum rolls."
Every fourth of July, or Decoration Day, or whenever there was a parade in that little Hudson River town heading the parade was a group of drummers -- Algernon White, his brother Gilbert, a cousin Ronnie Peterson, and little Chip -- representing the Spirit of "76, those guys you see in the history books from the American Revolution.
In junior high school, Chip and three other youngsters had a jazz quartet that played at parties and local functions. By the time he got to high school and became a member of the Peeksill High School Jazz Big Band, he knew that music was his thing.
Travels -- Far
Further study at Ithaca College and Boston's Berklee School of Music produced a polished percussionist who has drums and will travel -- far.
Not only did Chip serve in Korea as an Army MP in Special Service, but as a civilian he's been sending out messages on his drums in concerts and festivals from coast-to-coast in the States, Canada, Europe and Japan, performing with such stars as Carmen McCrae, Jaki Byard, James Moody, Frank Wess, Hohnny Coles, Dave Liebman, Marion Cowings, Charlie Mariano, and Enrico Rava. Once a member of the rock band "Cynara," he soon formed the Chip White Sextet. Studying orchestration and arranging with Frank Foster, with Donald Byrd at Columbia, as well as with Alan Dawson, Mariano at Berklee and Freddie Buda of the Boston Symphony, when you hear his combo, you hear a lot of original compositions.
At the Blue Note and other clubs, the Chip White Sextet has been frequently booked. Even at the International Paper Plaza, where he and his group performed in an outdoor concert the other day, the lunch crowd applauded and a passenger in a stretch limousine in the traffic on 45th Street rolled down the tinted windows to get a better look at this outstanding group of musicians: Mike Cochrane, piano; Todd McKinney, trumpet; Dave Dunaway, bass; Dave Hubbard, tenor and alto sax and flute; and Chip on drums.
Way back in the Sixties, Chip heard the great John Coltrane play at the legendary Birdland. "He was something bordering on the mystical -- so much knowledge, so spritual -- and changed my whole head. It was like watching somebody walking water. It was a great night -- I saw Jackie Robinson and his wife there. "Trane was making people aware of another energy."
Some of that same energy you could hear at that outdoor concert in "19th Street," by Chip -- a kind of international, exotic sound. Then there were those solos by Mike Cochrane, flicking out the melody with a strong right hand as he embroidered harmonies in the lower register on his own "Passing Thought." Dunaway walked with his bass and Chip's drums gave a bouncy support like Converse sneakers.
Hubbard, too, played a pretty ballad on his tenor -- in fact each member of the combo contributes their own numbers. Then the lovely icing on the cake is the articulate, attractive Vanessa Davis, who sang a tribute to Johnny Hartman -- "Lush Life," a song he recorded on an album with Coltrane. She also was wonderful on "Sashay Blues," a Chip gem.
Mel Tapley - New York Amsterdam News, September 8, 1984