LENNY WHITE: ‘Anomaly’ (Abstract Logix)

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Lenny White’s back – not that he’s been away, of course, as he’s contributed his funky jazz drumming to several projects recently. But this is the first solo album he’s embarked upon in a decade, making ‘Anomaly’ a significant release. According to White, the inspiration for his comeback was 2008’s hugely successful Return To Forever reunion, which convinced him that there was still an audience hungry for jazz-rock fusion.

A host of stellar names from the jazz-funk firmament turn out to assist the 60-year-old veteran sticks man – like fellow RTF member, Stanley Clarke, plus Bernard Wright, Victor Bailey, Charles Fambrough, Mike Clark, Jimmy Herring and David Gilmore. Also, singers Nicki Richards and Vaneese Thomas add a soulful vibe to the album, which proves a varied musical potpourri that blends jazz, funk, rock, and R&B into a homogenous and accessible whole.

The eclectic character of the album is exemplified by the hard-riffing rock blast that is ‘We Know’ – doffing its cap, perhaps, to Led Zeppelin – which is followed by the sweetly soulful ‘Forever’ featuring the alluring lead vocals of co-writer Nicki Richards (White helmed her criminally underappreciated 1990 album, ‘Naked To The World’). ‘Dark Moon’ is a breezy fusion workout with a subtle Latin groove boasting a tasty guitar solo by David Gilmore. The fast-paced ‘Gazelle’ with its irregular ostinato rhythms turns up the wick even more as far as musical intensity is concerned while ‘Cat Let Out Of The Bag’ is a rambunctious slab of chicken-neck funk with a wild sax solo.

Different again is ‘Water Changes Everything,’ a thoughtful African-flavoured piece whose lyrics focus on the shortage of H20 in parts of Africa. The final cut, ‘The Wait Has Lifted The Weight,’ is a sombre yet beautifully-orchestrated blues piece that begins with a spoken word introduction by White, who muses metaphysically about life. It rounds off what is an absorbing, entertaining and ambitious set by the Return To Forever drummer. With any luck, it won’t be ten years until his next solo venture.

(CW) 4/5