Leonard “Lenny” White III is a jazz fusion drummer who was a member of the band Return to Forever led by Chick Corea in the 1970s. He also played drums on the landmark Miles Davis album Bitches Brew. White has been called “one of the founding fathers of jazz fusion.” He has won three Grammy awards, two nominations and one Latin Grammy and has recorded with artists including Luis Gasca, Andrew Hill, Joe Henderson, Azteca, Stanley Clarke, Buster Williams, Freddie Hubbard, Woody Shaw, Gato Barbieri, Buddy Terry, Santana, Curtis Fuller, Eddie Henderson, Jaco Pastorius, and Bobby Hutcherson.
Born in Queens, New York City, White became interested in music at a young age. As a self taught drummer he started off his career playing with groups at the New York jazz scene. While he was living at home, his father would take him to gigs. Early on he played clubs in Queens New York such as the Aphrodisiac, Slugs, and The Gold Lounge. It was at The Gold Lounge where he had his first gig with saxophonist Jackie McLean.During the late 1960s he began performing with Mclean around Queens. Through this, White was recommended to play on Miles Davis’ landmark 1969 LP Bitches Brew and feature on Freddie Hubbard’s 1970 LP Red Clay. By 1973 White had joined the jazz group Return to Forever.
In 1975 White released his debut solo album entitled Venusian Summer, which featured guitarists Al DiMeola and fusion guitar pioneer Larry Coryell. Big City was released in 1977. During 1978 he released his Space opera inspired The Adventures of Astral Pirates and his third solo album Streamline. He eventually formed the jazz/soul group Twennynine who went on to issue three studio albums, 1979’s Best of Friends, Twennynine with Lenny White in 1980, and 1981’s Just Like Dreamin‘.
White then made a guest appearance on Chick Corea’s 1982 album Touchstone and produced Chaka Khan’s 1982 LP Echoes of an Era. He later released his 1983 album Attitude and co-produced Pieces of a Dream‘s 1986 LP Joyride. White now teaches at NYU Steinhardt where he has an ensemble as well as a lecture class on Bitches Brew called “The Miles Davis Aesthetic.”
His song “Algorithm Takedown” won Best Song at the Cannes World Film Festival in 2023.