Feb 24, 2012

Andrew White, "The Living Legend"

If you are a jazz person, and you are not already familiar with Andrew White, this post is for you. I'm putting it up here because Andrew does not have a web presence befitting his stature, and his work might be interesting to some readers.

What can one say about Andrew White that has not already been said...by himself? Here are some of his self-descriptions:

“The world’s leading authority on the music of John Coltrane”

“Living Legend of Music Historiography”

“Renaissance Man of Music”

“the enormous and unquestionable prowess of the highest acclaimed, irrepressible, legendary, leading saxophonist of the day”

“the ultimate bad-assed-Zorro-Super-sax”

“I am considered to be the world’s most voluminously self-industrialized artist in history and possess one of the greatest minds of the twentieth and twenty-first centuries.”

“the legendary self-purported genius”

“the master himself, 'Mr. Bionic Saxophone', 'Mr. Saxophonitis', 'Mr. Vocalese Buz', 'Jaws White', and 'Mr. Musical Achiever of the ’70’s and ’80’s' ”

Well, that’s all true, allowing for just a little self-promotional hyperbole. Andrew White is best known as the man who has transcribed virtually every John Coltrane solo that was ever recorded. The transcriptions are accurate, and his musical calligraphy is good too. Andrew is also a world-class jazz saxophonist who has recorded with McCoy Tyner and toured/recorded with Elvin Jones; as a funk bassist he toured with Stevie Wonder and recorded with Weather Report; as a classical oboist he played for a couple of years with the American Ballet Theater.

And - of practical interest to you if you are a jazz player - Andrew runs a mail-order business selling his Coltrane transcriptions (also some transcribed solos by Charlie Parker, Eric Dolphy, and Andrew White), along with many self-produced recordings and various essays and treatises. The latter range from scholarly to humorous, sometimes both.

Andrew doesn’t do the internet. To enjoy his works, you will need to write him for his “Comprehensive Catalogue of Over 2500 Self-Produced Products.” Last time I checked, the catalog was priced at $10.00. You will easily derive $10.00 of amusement from the catalog alone. Then you can decide on the transcriptions, recordings, or prose works that interest you, and mail him an order.

Andrew has written an amusing and informative autobiography, “Everybody Loves the Sugar - The Book.” I'm reading it for the second time. Probably not too many people can make that claim. It is 794 pages of stories (often risqué, often humorous), opinions about the music industry, opinions about racism, opinions about "jazz education," various other digressions, and of course self-promotion, all in the context of autobiography.

The book reminds me of a medieval tome. It's a large book, typewritten (on a typewriter). Andrew does not do word processors. It is written in a colloquial style, and not meticulously edited for spelling. Personally, I dig Andrew's writing (as well as his musical work). It's not for everybody. However, if you want to try to understand where he is coming from...

For a taste of his prose, here is a link to "Chicken Alto," a great story from "Everybody Loves the Sugar."

For catalogs and products, you can contact Andrew White at:

Andrew’s Musical Enterprises
4830 S. Dakota Ave., N.E.
Washington, D.C. 20017
phone: (202) 526-3666
fax: (202) 526-4013

Although Andrew does not maintain a web presence and seems to dislike computers, here are a few more links that you might want to check out:

Andrew's Wikipedia entry

A youtube video - "Giant Steps" and "Everything I Have is Yours"

Another video - Andrew talks about "Improvisation on the Bandstand"

Andrew's statement acknowledging the "Benny Golson Jazz Master Award"

A "Saxophone Journal" column by Andrew (he wrote columns for the magazine for a number of years)

Some excerpts from an interview with Billy Taylor

A great recent article on the CapitalBop site, including some old and new recordings - Listen!


Guto said...

Peter, thank you for pointing me to this article. Quite interesting to learn about Andrew White. Digging around, I found this link to his "Chicken Alto" story you mentioned, allegedly published with his authorization: http://www.flashpointmag.com/white2.htm

Unknown said...

I just had the opportunity to hear Andrew White in one of his rare public performances, at a local jazz festival at Washington Adventist University in Takoma Park, Maryland. He appeared with a rhythm section of very good veteran players (I'd say in particular the piano player, Wade Beach, deserves to be more well known). They opened with a Wayne Shorter tune (Night Dreamer, I think, but a very raucous take), and then played the entire "A Love Supreme" suite in honor of that composition's 50th anniversary. Andrew is still a monster player, although the sonic assault can be a bit overwhelming (he only seems to have one volume setting, Loud, and one speed setting, Fast). Although he has obviously absorbed a lot of Coltrane, he is not a mere imitator. His tone and vibrato are more florid and sometimes called to mind for me the great swing-era tenor honkers. I'm not familiar with his vast output of compositions and wonder if there isn't a hidden treasure trove in there. In terms of sheer ability on the saxophone, I'd include him in the top ranks of strong tenor players who came of age after Coltrane and absorbed his style and techniques, like David Liebman or Ernie Watts.

Peter Spitzer said...

Daniel - I wish I'd been there! Great to hear from you.

Suzanne Pittson said...

Thanks for posting this Peter. In 1996, I decided to set lyrics to "A Love Supreme" to commemorate the 30th anniversary of Coltrane's passing in 1997, and I ordered the transcription from Andrew. I ended up setting lyrics to Trane's solo on Acknowledgement, and the heads of the other movements, so the transcription was invaluable. When my CD came out in 1999 and Downbeat did an article, I had part of the transcription spread across the piano in the photo, and Andrew wrote to me and thanked me for the visual plug in Downbeat. I'd really love to meet him sometime and thank him for everything.