Life in the Modern World
Los Angeles-based vocalist Lauren White teams with the superb vocalist and in-demand producer Mark Winkler for her third album, the eclectic storytelling Life in the Modern World, a collection of rarely covered standards from classic writers and interpretations of tunes from more contemporary ones. These tunes span almost 80 years of music. Her track list consists of tunes from Lionel Hampton, Ella Fitzgerald and Hoagy Carmichael to the modern writers Winkler, Kathryn Bostic and Ron Boustead. White delivers these in her warm smoky voice with clear articulation and elegance.
White has found success as a singer but doesn’t have to quit her “day job” as producer of the hit HBO show Homeland either. She’s fortunate to be able to do both. Her TV role has her traveling between both coasts and that too is fortuitous, as she’s able to play in clubs and tap some of the best musicians from both New York and Los Angeles, arguably our two biggest jazz cities. You’ve likely seen some of these musicians grace several albums – Kevin Axt and David Finck on bass, Marvin “Smitty” Smith and Chris Wabich on drums, Kevin Winard on drums and percussion, Grant Geissman on guitar, Alex Budman on horns, Francisco Torres on trombone, Tatum Greenblatt and Michael Stever on trumpet along with her collaborative partners Winkler on vocals and pianist Quinn Johnson.
Johnson was the music director/pianist for Steve Tyrell for 16 years and has a staggering pedigree that includes Tom Scott, Flora Purim, Rod Stewart, Diana Ross, and Rita Coolidge. Johnson also arranged and accompanied White on her Experiment release, Winkler, who has been on these pages several times, has 16 CDs as a leader and has had over 250 of his songs performed or recorded by other artists. Winkler also produced White’s most recent project, Out of the Past, Jazz & Noir.
White opens with the title track, a rarely heard song originally performed by the Crusaders, followed by the swinging “’Til I Get It Right,” co-written by Winkler and performed with him as a duet. “Signing Off” is a little known Ella Fitzgerald tune that dates to 1961, where Ella wrote the lyrics. A better known standard comes from Hoagy Carmichael and Johnny Mercer in “How Little We Know,” written for the 1944 film To Have and Have Not, where Johnson has some fun with the arrangement, adding a cha-cha element. Another oft-covered tune is “Midnight Sun” from Lionel Hampton and Johnny Mercer. Eli Brueggemann, musical director of Saturday Night Live, provides a funky arrangement that has White’s vocal gliding smoothly over percolating rhythms.
“Coffee’ is an LA inspired tune written by fellow vocalist Ron Boustead and Ken Kresge while “Slow Down” owes to Kathyrn Bostic, who is a composer, singer, and songwriter known for her work on film, TV, and live theater. This featues a lively three horn arrangement. Others include Michael Frank’s “Monk’s New Tune,” also with three horns and Charles Mingus’s “Ellington’s Sound of Love,” where White is backed by a piano trio. “In a New York Minute” is another bold, brassy tune with Winkler and White doing background vocals in addition to White’s lead.
Rather incredibly, Johnson had never heard White’s choice for the closer, Paul Simon’s “American Tune.” So, perhaps advantageously, he brought a fresh perspective to the arrangement, which features Geismann’s guitar and Winard’s percussion. They slow down the tempo, showcasing the nuances in White’s emotive, warm delivery. As with previous efforts from the three main collaborators, White, Winkler and Johnson, this is as elegant as vocal jazz gets. White brings maturity, sass, style and a natural effervescent charm that proves irresistible.
- Jim Hynes