way back home: live from rochester, ny

Legendary Drummer Steve Gadd to release new

DVD/CD package “Way Back Home”  (BFM JAZZ)

A recording/DVD of his 70th Birthday celebration at the 2015 Rochester Jazz Festival

Most people, by age 70, are either retired or ready for it. But Steve Gadd is not “most people.” The renowned, world-class drummer didn’t celebrate his 70th with a round of golf or his feet up on a lounge chair. He spent it making music with the same ferocity, style, intellect and creativity that he’s brought to the instrument for more than four decades. Now, with the release of Way Back Home, a new DVD/CD package filmed and recorded at the 2015 Rochester Jazz Festival—not far from his New York State birthplace, hence the title—the Steve Gadd Band reminds us, once again, why its namesake is one of the most celebrated (and emulated) musicians of our time.

Way Back Home features the renowned lineup of Gadd (on drums, natch), along with trumpeter Walt Fowler (Frank Zappa, Buddy Rich, George Duke, Billy Cobham), guitarist Michael Landau (Ray Charles, Joni Mitchell, Miles Davis, Pink Floyd), keyboardist Larry Goldings (Michael Brecker, Jack DeJohnette, Maceo Parker, Jim Hall) and 5-string bassist Jimmy Johnson (Allan Holdsworth, Billy Childs, Dori Caymmi, Stan Getz). The same personnel drove 70 Strong, the quintet’s 2015 sophomore studio release, about which All About Jazz wrote, “It’s safe to say that the musicians’ shimmering enthusiasm impel the celebratory nature of Gadd’s 70th birthday and magnificent career.”

 On Way Back Home, the Steve Gadd Band takes material from 70 Strong and the preceding Gadditude album and injects into it a whole other level of sizzle and smarts. The set also features several other great tunes that exhibit the innate improvisational talents of each musician and shine a bright light on the intuitive brilliance that comes to this quintet when they collectively find that certain indescribable, indelible groove.

 In addition to the dozen-track, live-in-concert DVD, Way Back Home also includes a bonus eight-song highlights CD of the live recordings from the same concert. Among the powerful jams that grace both discs are a rave-up take on Buddy Miles’ “Them Changes,” made famous by Jimi Hendrix’s Band of Gypsys, and the Jan Hammer Group’s 1976 classic “Oh, Yeah,” plus originals like Landau’s “Africa,” Johnson’s “Desu” and Goldings’ “Cavaliero” that showcase the compositional acumen of the band members.

 And finally, the celebratory birthday package features an interview with Dr. Gadd himself, conducted by drummer Rick Marotta, as well as interviews with Tony Levin, Chuck Mangione and others.

Steve Gadd may be 70 now, but he’s been working a pair of drumsticks since he was 7, when an uncle encouraged him to take lessons. By 11 Steve was sitting in with Dizzy Gillespie and by his 20s he was a seasoned pro. He first came to international prominence during the 1970s, touring and recording with the likes of Paul Simon, Steely Dan and Carly Simon. Gadd also found himself, beginning in 1976, a core member of one of the most heralded and forward-thinking ensembles of its time, Stuff, in conjunction with pianist Richard Tee, guitarist Eric Gale and bassist Cornell Dupree, all now sadly departed 

Genre to Steve Gadd was just something to be ignored—if the music was good and it required a great drummer, Gadd got the call. Others tried to sound like him, but there was only one Steve Gadd. As Chick Corea once commented, “Every drummer wants to play like Gadd because he plays perfect.... He has brought orchestral and compositional thinking to the drum kit while at the same time having a great imagination and a great ability to swing.”

The ’80s saw Gadd’s reputation as the go-to drummer for both live and session work spreading. His credits during those years ranged from Frank Sinatra to Grover Washington Jr. to Eric Clapton, with whom he’s continued to play well into the 2010s.  James Taylor and Kate Bush are other icons who champion Dr. Gadd’s gifts, as have everyone from Paul McCartney and the Bee Gees to jazz legends like Al Jarreau and David Sanborn. 

But now, with his own Steve Gadd Band, we finally get to hear what this legend is all about when he’s working for himself, not making others sound better. Gadd, Fowler, Goldings, Landau and Johnson are each leaders in their own right, but together they coalesce into a whole that’s much greater than the sum of its considerable parts

Phil Collins once told a drummer joke that, although quite humorous, is also quite true. “How many drummers does it take to change a light bulb?” it goes. The answer is, “Ten. And then another ten to talk about how Steve Gadd would have done it.”

Way Back Home is the perfect example of how Steve Gadd has always done it—and continues to do it as he enters his eighth decade.


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