Like so many millions of us, guitarist Peter White still feels closest to the music he absorbed while growing up. As a British teen in the ’60s, he kept his ears glued to the radio—soaking up the exciting new sounds of rock bands like the Beatles and soul giants like Stevie Wonder—and tried to learn how to play those songs on the acoustic guitar his dad had given him. It didn’t take him long to get the hang of it, and now, after more than four decades as both a leader and sideman, he’s returning to those tunes that impacted him so forcefully in his youth.
His latest release Groovin’ is White’s third collection of guitar-centric interpretations of timeless compositions from those halcyon years of the 1950s to the ’80s. Taking up where his previous all-covers albums Reflections (1994) and Playin’ Favorites (2006) left off, Groovin’ finds White not only nostalgic but adventurous and playful, injecting vocal shadings and bold horn charts into the mix, and even some tougher guitar sounds than he’s generally known for.
Influenced at first by folk music, he learned fingerstyle picking by listening to Simon and Garfunkel and Joni Mitchell recordings. He fell for the British blues of bands such as (early) Fleetwood Mac and was introduced to jazz by a friend. It was his ability to adapt his playing to multiple styles of music that got White noticed by British singer-songwriter Al Stewart - first as a pianist, then as a guitarist. White played on Stewart’s top 10 album Year of the Cat in 1976 and co-wrote the hit title track of the singer’s next album, “Time Passages.” White spent 20 years in all accompanying Stewart, and performed sideman duties for many other artists, but by 1990 he was ready to go out on his own.
After nearly four decades of writing, recording and touring – either as a sideman or a solo artist – Peter White still seeks out the road not yet traveled. Whether it’s new songs, new ideas, new styles or new collaborators, this virtuoso of contemporary jazz, classical, pop and Spanish guitar is at his best when standing on the edge of creative territory waiting to be explored. For White, it’s always about the journey and where it will take him, and he’s always ready to go.