Steve Gadd Band '70 Strong' - Jazzin' Review Louisville Music News
While the title refers to drummer Steve Gadd's 70th birthday (officially April 9), it could also refer to the 70+ minutes of strong playing by Gadd and his colleagues, guitarist Michael Landau, keyboardist Larry Goldings, trumpeter Walt Fowler and bassist Jimmy Johnson. For those who slept through the last half-century of American popular music and jazz, Gadd has been the drummer for projects as disparate as Paul Simon (remember the drum intro to "50 Ways to Leave Your Lover"), many Chick Corea albums, studio sessions with Steely Dan and the Brecker Brothers, and more. This lineup has backed James Taylor for many years, although that wouldn't be apparent from the stylistic range here. Many of the tunes incorporate Gadd's "less-is-more" approach to funk, including the opening "Foam Home" (a collaborative composition) and Landau's "The Long Way Home." The second song is a reimagined version of the classic Eddie Harris piece, "Freedom Jazz Dance," with a spooky electric Miles Davis. Indeed, several of the songs have that spooky, voodoo feel, including Goldings' "Sly Boots." Goldings also contributes "Written in Stone," a slow piece with martial drumming and an Acadian feel. Fowler's "Duke's Anthem," a soulful waltz, is followed by more mysterious funk on Goldings' "Elegant Squares." Johnson's ballad "Desu" provides Gadd the opportunity to use brushes on snare while eliciting crisp cymbal tones with his sticks. Speaking of the Brecker Brothers, Gadd and company turn Jan Hammer's "Oh, Yeah?" into a workout which would have fit well on one of the Breckers' albums. They close with a slow blues, another Landau number entitled "Blues for . . .." No showboating here, just down-home and greasy. I had the good fortune to interview Gadd for DownBeat (September, 2013: http://www.downbeat.com/default.asp?sect=news&subsect=news_detail&nid=2208), in which he said "I try to play whatever helps [the music] grow so it's as good as it could be." This new record provides ample evidence of how his approach works to the benefit of the music presented.
Martin Z. Kasadan J