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Best of Friends

Twennynine & Lenny White

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Album Review

No one mistook Lenny White for a bop purist in the 1970s, when the drummer was famous for his work with Chick Corea's influential fusion outfit Return to Forever. Under Corea's leadership, White embraced a daring mixture of jazz, rock, and funk; Return to Forever wasn't straight-ahead bop, but its members did a lot of improvising. White's work with Return to Forever earned him a reputation as a fusion instrumentalist, and his first recordings as a leader were equally fusion-oriented. So it came as a major surprise when, in 1979, White assembled a band that had very little to do with instrumental fusion. The band was billed as Twennynine featuring Lenny White, and its first project, Best of Friends, emphasizes vocal-oriented funk and soul. Some fusion lovers weren't happy with White's change of direction, but from an R&B standpoint, this 1979 LP (which White produced with Earth, Wind & Fire's Larry Dunn) has a lot going for it. With White on drums, various Twennynine members handle the lead vocals on tracks that range from the goofy funk smoker "Peanut Butter" (a major hit) to sleek, sophisticated R&B offerings like "Betta," "Oh, Sylvie," and the lovely "Morning Sunrise." The album's only fusion instrumental is "Tropical Nights"; otherwise, this is very much an R&B album. Like Tom Browne and Bernard Wright, Twennynine was part of Jamaica, Queens' soul/funk scene of the late '70s and early '80s, which was best known for "Peanut Butter" and Browne's "Funkin' for Jamaica." Best of Friends is hardly the fusion workout that Return to Forever fans wanted White to provide in 1979, but for R&B enthusiasts, it is rightly considered one of the finest albums that the Jamaica scene had to offer.

Best of Friends, Twennynine
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