How best to describe saxophonist Andrew White's performance at the taping of "Billy Taylor's Jazz at the Kennedy Center" on Monday night? The host of the NPR program offered a succinct appraisal: "ferocious." Taylor looked a little slack-jawed after witnessing up-close White's power on tenor sax--a sound teeming with fresh harmonic ideas and driven by a fierce rhythmic momentum.
White, on the other hand, has never been known as a man of few words. The author of numerous scholarly jazz articles and transcriptions, he answered questions from Taylor and members of the Terrace Theater audience at length, shamelessly plugging his publications and producing a lot of laughter in the bargain. The comedy briefly spilled over into one of his performances, an amusingly choreographed exercise in "saxophonisitic ebonics" dubbed "Nouveau Funk," which lived up to its billing.
For the most part, though, White spent the evening demonstrating his knowledge and mastery of the music of Charlie Parker (via four of his Parker transcriptions) and John Coltrane (via a torrential reprise of "Giant Steps"). It was no mere coincidence that the latter performance, with its fanciful opening cadenza, was marked by the same virtue White ascribed to Coltrane's work: "unpredictability." Supported by Taylor and his alert trio mates--bassist Chip Jackson and drummer Winard Harper--White played tenor and alto saxes with equal finesse, tempering his more impassioned recitals with a tender and lyrical reading of "Everything I Have Is Yours."