Pianist Joshua White (born August 17, 1985) had parallel musical training in both classical and gospel music traditions before encountering jazz music at the University of California, San Diego summer camp in 2003.
He began formal piano training at the age of seven and became the organist/pianist for the Encanto Southern Baptist Church by age 10. After competing in several classical piano music competitions, Joshua (at the age of 18) chose to focus his musical studies on jazz and improvised music, drawing inspiration from its many innovators. He dove into the music head first with the help of world-renowned musicians like composer Anthony Davis, saxophonist David Borgo, flutist Holly Hofmann and piano master Mike Wofford.
"Joshua was the most devoted student I've ever worked with by far," says Wofford. "Absolutely focused and with a great intuitive grasp of the music, even at that early stage."
In the nine years following, White has made incredible strides through the Southern California jazz community, playing with virtuoso trumpeter Gilbert Castellanos, alto saxophone legend Charles McPherson, tenor saxophonist Daniel Jackson, and former Anthony Braxton sideman, Mark Dresser.
Dresser hand-picked the young musician for his West Coast Quintet, which featured saxophonist Tripp Sprague, virtuoso trombonist Michael Dessen and drummer Duncan Moore.
"Josh is a super-bad young pianist," Dresser said. "I see him as a singular talent. He brings so much to the table."
White's virtuosity is never about empty displays of technique. He has the uncanny ability to blend the overtly lyrical with passages of tumultuous tension without losing the listener in the process. He is, in short, a cultural improviser, taking his inheritance and venturing into possibility.
In 2011, White entered the prestigious Thelonious Monk International Piano Competition in Washington D.C., ultimately placing second out of 160 competitors from around the world. Herbie Hancock was one the judges.
"Joshua has immense talent," Hancock told music critic George Varga of the San Diego Union Tribune. "I was impressed by his daring and courageous approach to improvisation on the cutting edge of innovation. He is his own man. I believe that Thelonious Monk would have been proud of the performance of this great young artist..."
New York Times jazz critic Ben Ratliff was at the competition.
"He pressed hard against the rhythm section and improvised with form, telling the bassist Rodney Whitaker and the drummer Carl Allen what to do and when, accelerating and decelerating, suddenly going free. (Nobody else did that.) … Mr. White used a lot of dissonance and clutter, but it was provocative, chord-related clutter, not the brilliant-soloist kind made mostly with the right hand. It was a sound worth returning to…”
For the last several years, White has been in demand as one of Southern California’s most creative and technically accomplished jazz pianists. He has performed regularly at Dizzy’s San Diego, Blue Whale, the Jazz Bakery, the Athenaeum Music and Arts Library, and numerous other venues.
In 2010, White recorded a solo album featuring spontaneous interpretations of jazz standards, and this effort was praised by such luminaries as pianist Geri Allen. He can also be heard on drummer Russell Bissett's trio disc, Dream Street, with bassist Rob Thorsen, and on bassist Danny Weller's album Third Story, with Jeff Miles on guitar and Jens Kuross on drums.
Formed in May 2012, the Joshua White Quintet is a Southern California-based group focused on interpreting original compositions, as well as exploring the boundaries of collective improvisation. The JWQ features trombonist Michael Dessen, Gavin Templeton on alto saxophone, Dave Robaire on bass, and Dan Schnelle on drums.
With Joshua’s enthusiasm and phenomenal dedication to music, he is sure to become one of jazz’s major talents.