Largely self-taught on drums, native New Yorker White broke into the jazz world in 1968 with alto saxophonist Jackie McLean. The following year he participated in Miles Davis' Bitches Brew, generally regarded as the album that birthed the fusion movement. He subsequently recorded with a Who's Who in Jazz, including trumpeters Freddie Hubbard and Woody Shaw, tenor saxophonists Joe Henderson, Gato Barbieri and Stan Getz and renowned composer-bandleader Gil Evans, among others. As a member of Return To Forever from 1973 to 1976, White gained a solid reputation as one of the top fusion drummers of the day. I'm basically a jazz guy, and that's what I grew up playing," he says. But when this new thing happened with jazz-rock through Bitches Brew and bands like Tony Williams Lifetime and Return To Forever, I found myself on the ground floor of a movement. And this musical movement co-existed with other forms of music that came in during the latter part of the 20th century."
I was fortunate when I started to make music," he continues. I made music at the same time that Igor Stravinksy was making music, at the same time that Jimi Hendrix and James Brown were making music, at the same time that Duke Ellington and Miles Davis and John Coltrane were making music. Led Zeppelin co-existed at the same time that Return To Forever did. I listened to all that music and was influenced by all of it. So now when I put together an eclectic project I sometimes hear people say, Oh man, what is he trying to do" But the truth is, I'm not trying to do anything. I'm just representing the music that I came up listening to."