Prodigal son

Back to the same old place

Many folks were disappointed when harpist and singer Lee McBee left Mike Morgan's band, the Crawl, citing the distance between Dallas and his home in Kansas City. Bands that do the R&B-blues boogie often live or die based on their lead vocalist; the affable McBee could don the requisite personas--lover man, pavement hound, hustler--without bugging the audience.

It was comforting to know that McBee would be with Pat Boyack, a talented newcomer from Utah who had gotten off to a promising start here and was seriously considering a Kansas City move to play with McBee. Now all that's off: Boyack is staying in town, McBee is back with the Crawl, and everybody's bending over backwards to say nice things about each other.

"Pat and I are still friends," McBee avers during a break in rehearsal. "Just like before, it all came down to geography...Pat was going to be up in KC, then he wasn't, then he still wasn't, and I was like, 'Shit, this is the same deal I had before!'" Suddenly, Chris Whynaught, the West Coast sax player and singer who stepped into the Crawl after McBee, departed. Although he helped Morgan and company turn in a more soulfully varied effort on Looky Here!, their latest release, he did not play well with others. "He was a knucklehead," Morgan states with a bit of a sigh. "Lee wasn't completely happy with Pat [Boyack]," he recalls, "so we talked and figured out a way to fly him back and forth."

Boyack might be forgiven a bit of exasperation, but the guitarist is going out of his way to be equitable. "Me and Lee are still good friends," he reports. "Sometimes the music business is really frustrating. Things just didn't work out." Sometimes preparing for a change can be as illuminating as the change itself: Boyack's almost-move seems to have left him with a re-awakened appreciation for Dallas. "I'm glad I didn't leave," he admits now. "I've been to blues clubs all over the country, and Dallas is really impressive." Right now, Boyack is breaking in a new vocalist, Bruce Bowland, who used to sing with Stevie Ray Vaughan in long-ago local bands like Krackerjack and Blackbird. Boyack also is taking the time to try to write his own songs.

"I'm looking for people that I can get along with," he says, eyeing more change. "The next album will be blues, but with some Otis thrown in--you know, put some soul, some Memphis in it...I don't want to put out the same album year after year."

The gift that keeps on giving
You know guitarist Peter White. You don't think so, but you do:Can you say "Time Passages"? Sorry, sorry, you can stop screaming now. White co-wrote the one-time pop ubiquity with Al Stewart, with whom he's collaborated for the past 20 years. Lately he's backed up Transylvanian torch singer Basia and gotten quite a following on the basis of his smooth, breezy instrumental albums, the stuff that radio's lite-jazz dreams are made of. Now he's released his third album, Caravan of Dreams, named for the great music venue in downtown Fort Worth.

White wrote the song at the club, killing time during the afternoon of the second day of a two-day engagement last year. "It's such a nice club," enthuses White, who goes back with the Caravan further than most--all the way back to 1982, when the club had just opened. "It was much different then, much smaller," he remembers. "It's such a great name. It's so great to play there...I just put my feelings about the place into the song."

White didn't foresee his adult-contemporary success. "I would just sort of play around on the guitar," he explains, "but I never imagined that there would be a place out there for what was basically instrumental pop...I mean, the people doing it at the time, guys like Larry Carlton--they all had these jazz backgrounds. What I was trying to do was play instrumental music coming from a pop background."

He might be passing for jazz with those who don't know any better, but don't woof at White for diluting a once-great American art form--the soft-spoken Brit's never considered what he does jazz. "I've never said I was jazz; never pretended to be," he claims, warming to the subject. "I see myself as an entertainer, a guy with a guitar. I don't know where this idea of always having to be challenged by everything has to come in." Peter White plays the Caravan of Dreams in Fort Worth July 27.

My dad won a Magistere and all I got was this lousy T-shirt
Larry Austin, music professor at the University of North Texas, has been awarded the International Electroacoustic Music Competition's 1996 Magistere. Only eight Magisteres have been awarded since the contest started in 1973. The award consists of approximately $2,000 and an invitation to serve as a composer-in-residence at a consortium studio for electroacoustic music. Austin is the first American to be so honored, in this case for his 1995 "BluesAx," a composition for saxophone and taped music. Austin--who has been composing works that involve electroacoustic and computer music media in addition to operas and orchestral and choral works since 1964--came to UNT in 1978 and will retire in August to compose music full time.

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