One of the most unique details of Lauren White’s creative history is her role as a producer of the Showtime TV hit Homeland. While the show shines a fascinating fictional light on almost everything that’s messed up in our sociopolitical world, the singer’s other professional identity – as one of Los Angeles and New York’s most gifted and versatile vocal jazz performers – reminds us of all that’s joyous and right.
No doubt her intuitive sense of emotion, sensually inviting voice and crisp, rangy approach to storytelling would make it a breeze for her to present our favorite Great American Songbook standards in a fresh way. But she’s had other things on her mind these past few albums, as she’s delved into film noir tunes and a tribute to 60’s-70’s jazz singer Irene Kral. Her latest, Life in the Modern World, is delightfully all over the map and never overly familiar material-wise, allowing her to draw from a multitude of jazz and pop influences from numerous eras (1940’s – present) to create a keen observational narrative flow all her own.
No matter which era a tune is from, or whether it’s a soft spoken ballad (Ella Fitzgerald’s “Signing Off”) or brisk Latin dance (Hoagy Carmichael & Johnny Mercer’s “How Little We Know”), everything centers around White’s always delightful sense of sass, swing and subtlety - and her fun, freewheeling chemistry with producer Mark Winkler (also a spirited duet partner on Winkler’s gem “Till I Get It Right”), pianist/arranger Quinn Johnson and some of the best cats L.A. and NYC has to offer.
Fans who are willing to follow White down her rambunctiously curious jazzy rabbit hole will enjoy discovering the original versions of songs by the likes of The Crusaders (“Life in the Modern World”), Michael Franks (“Monk’s New Tune”) and Paul Simon (“American Tune”). And every time, they’ll realize just how White’s jaunty re-imagination takes them to a whole new level of insight and excellence.
Life in the Modern World also finds the singer mining glory on newer originals like Ron Boustead and Ken Kresge’s crafty invitation for “Coffee” and Kathryn Bostic’s sultry hipster romance “Slow Down.” Homeland may make Life in the Modern World seem pretty complicated, but jazz vocal fans will be grateful its producer decided to share a different, decidedly optimistic viewpoint.