Single-minded Joshua White

“I don’t like saying the word ‘jazz.' I play music."

Joshua White
  • Joshua White

“It’s a celebration of my new music,” is how pianist Joshua White describes 13 Short Stories when he checks in by phone.

Joshua White + Polyphase at the San Diego Music Awards [2014]"

The new album, it tells a story of the band, of us as improvisers of this music.”

Does he have a regular band? No. White’s universe is bigger than that.

“The musicians I call most frequently to perform with me, I consider my family.”

He says this feeling extends to wherever the San Diegan gets bookings, be it Los Angeles or New York, where he recently finished a string of club dates.

“I just get who I think is best for the music.” When I ask about the state of the jazz scene here, in his hometown, White sounds agitated, as if I’ve put him on the spot. “There’s great musicians everywhere.”

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Joshua White

“He is his own man,” Herbie Hancock once said after hearing White perform. Indeed, he is. White’s solos are single-minded trails, engaging nonetheless, that sometimes require a roadmap to follow. Often, you’ll see White cuing the rhythm section. Last time I saw him, White looked across the bandstand at the bassist and mouthed the words “follow me.” The bassist did.

“I don’t like saying the word ‘jazz,’” White protests. “I play music. When you say jazz, I’m not even sure what that means. I don’t know where the boundaries are. If I play a C major chord, and I’m talking three notes, C, E, and G, does that make it a jazz chord? If a country musician plays the same three notes, does that make it a country chord?”

Most days White says you can find him at Lestat’s coffeehouse on Park Boulevard “with either a book or a pencil in my hand. If I’m not playing music, I’m reading. Otherwise, he’s studied music for most of his 32 years.

“It’s not who I am, but it is what I do.”

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