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I’ve shared this quotation from trumpeter, composer and band leader Wynton Marsalis before, but it bears repeating in the context of this blog feature: “Change the rhythm and you change the music.”
Drummer Steve Gadd changed the rhythm and he changed Jazz.
The revolution that he brought to Jazz drumming is akin to what Gene Krupa did for swing music, Kenny Clarke and Max Roach did for bop, Philly Joe Jones did for hard bop and the polyrhythms that Tony Williams and Elvin Jones brought to Jazz in the 1960s.
Of course, many other drummers made their contributions to changing the “time feel” of Jazz and therefore changing the music over the years but, with the exception of Tony Williams, few other drummers bridged Jazz into Rock and Salsa to the extent that Steve Gadd did.
Earl Palmer, Jim Keltner and Hal Blaine made a fortune as “in the pocket”
Hollywood studios drummers for Rock sessions and
while are all very fine drummers, Steve Gadd brings many added dimensions to
the backbeat drumming the predominates in today’s Jazz-Rock fusion.
He wraps the backbeat in a New Orleans marching band syncopation in the manner of drummer Idris Mohammed, simplifies the right-hand cymbal beat to a straight four-four, plays a cow bell as though it is a ride cymbal to create Latin Jazz inflections which he also heightens with the addition tom toms; tunes his drums to sound flat and tubby including a tight, cracking sounding snare drum and carefully crafts sustained grooves that give the music insistence and intensity.
Steve grooves, cooks and burns; his playing is never flashy but he always envelopes you in the rhythm he lays down.
His versatility is such that he sounds equally at home backing Rock vocalist James Taylor, or the late, pianist Michel Petrucciani or making classic Jazz recordings with Chet Baker, Paul Desmond and Jim Hall.
Yet, whatever the setting, you can tell immediately that it’s Steve Gadd.
At one time in Jazz parlance, to refer to a musician as a “bad” player meant just the opposite. A “Bad” player was one who had the epitome of skills, one who sometimes left you shaking your head in disbelief over what you had just heard.
“Badd” Steve Gadd is one such musician.
Steve has a new CD out and I thought I’d call your attention to it by sharing the following media release from Chris DiGirolamo’s Two for the Show Media.
Gadditude [BFM Jazz 302 062 418 2] – Street Date:
Drumming Icon Steve Gadd Leads All-Star Crew on Gadditude Grooving new session for BFM
JAZZ features fellow James Taylor sidemen.
“For Gadditude, his tenth outing as a leader and second for BFM Jazz, world class drummer Steve Gadd got a little help from his distinguished friends - guitarist Michael Landau, keyboardist Larry Goldings, trumpeter Walt Fowler and bassist Jimmy Johnson. Together they had already established a high degree of bandstand chemistry as the touring band for superstar singer-songwriter James Taylor. That goes a long way in explaining the sense of comfort and ease from track to track on this relaxed session recorded in just one week at Landau's home studio. "It was like a big family affair," says Gadd. "It's fun to get together with people that you care about, that you trust musically and just share the energy and try to make the music the best that it can be."
While Gadd's inimitable touch on the kit - the same one that defined hundreds of studio sessions since the 70s - underscores these nine tracks with understated authority, the rest of the Gadd Band follows suit with a collective feel that is relaxed, economical and imbued with deep soul. Together they put their own unique stamp on Keith Jarrett's "Country" and The Windup" and Radiohead's "Scatterbrain," along with evocative originals by Landau and Goldings.
"These guys are all great players," says Gadd. "We've played together a lot in James Taylor's band and I've also played with them in other circumstances too. They're some of the best guys in the world. And my belief is, when you put people like that together, the music will sort of dictate what will happen. That's where it was at on this session. We picked some music, put our heads together and everything fell into place real naturally."
Like no other drummer on the scene over the last four decades, Gadd has an uncanny ability to get 'inside' a tune. Gadditude is yet another example of the highly respected and hugely influential drummer finding the 'pocket' and making the music feel so good. The opener, Landau's "
Africa," carries a cool, mysterioso vibe that recalls Bitches
Brew-era Miles Davis. With Gadd cooking on a low flame underneath,
Landau offers slinky guitar lines on top of Goldings' hovering organ cushion while Fowler adds a touch of
Miles on mellow muted trumpet. Hammond
Goldings' beautiful ballad "Ask Me" has the composer switching to Fender Rhodes and Gadd resorting to his signature drum 'n' bugle corps grooves. "That was like a snare drum thing," he explains. "I love the sound of the snare drum and I love that kind of playing, and it just sort of worked for this song." Fowler, a former member of Frank Zappa's band who more recently has been doing orchestrations for movies, contributes some clear, open flugelhorn on this lyrical number.
Shifting gears, they put a new spin on Keith Jarrett's "Country" by playing it in 3/4, with Gadd's alluring brushwork setting the table for Goldings' gospel-ish Wurlitzer work and Fowler's bright horn solo. "I came up with the idea of doing it in three," says Gadd. "It's such a great Keith tune and we just tried to make it feel like it was our own."
Goldings's other composition here, "Cavaliero," is paced by Gadd's ultra-relaxed, behind-the-beat second line groove and colored by Landau's Ventures-like guitar lines. The bluesy "Green Foam" is a group composition that hinges on Landau's catchy guitar riff. It is reminiscent of Junior Wells' take on "Good Morning Little Schoolgirl" from his landmark 1965 album Hoodoo Man Blues (a familiar riff later 'borrowed' by Jimi Hendrix for his Band of Gypsys tune, "Who Knows"). "All of those old songs are inspiring to all of us," says Gadd, "so we just started grooving on that riff and went a little bit crazy with it. But it was all fun. We had a lot of fun throughout this whole session." With Goldings on organ, this earthy number shifts to a downhome blues midway through, and Gadd provides the momentum.
The great drummer then puts up an undulating groove under a Stax/Volt flavored interpretation of Abdullah Ibrahim's peaceful "The Mountain" (from 1985's acclaimed Water From An Ancient Well), which has Goldings on Wurlitzer and also features another potent trumpet solo from Fowler.
Landau's "Who Knows Blues" is a N'awlins flavored shuffle with Fowler on muted trumpet and Goldings providing a velvety B-3 cushion beneath him. Landau takes his time on an economical solo here that recalls Gadd's erstwhile bandmate in Stuff, the late Cornell Dupree. This moves into an energized romp of Keith Jarrett's original, "The Windup." After navigating through the tricky head, Gadd settles into a kind of calypso flavored beat as Fowler and Goldings add uplifting solos. The date concludes with the group's take on Radiohead's atmospheric "Scatterbrain" which is a nice feature for Fowler, who 'sings' through his horn with unbridled lyricism. "That was Jimmy Johnson's idea to bring in that song," says Gadd, "and I really liked the way it came out. It's one of my favorites on the record."
"I think all the grooves were pretty cool on this thing, they felt pretty comfortable," says the man whose extensive list of credits include landmark recordings with the likes of Paul Simon, James Taylor, Eric Clapton, Steely Dan, Chick Corea, Al Di Meola, Stanley Clarke and Chuck Mangione. "It's a good listening album, pretty melodies, good playing. And I hope people like it."
Gadditude, the great drummer's second album for BFM Jazz, is scheduled for release on September 3. It marks the first joint marketing venture between BFM Jazz and PledgeMusic, which will give fans the opportunity to enjoy exclusive videos that feature early versions of the tunes, behind-the-scenes clips from the recording sessions and exclusive signed CDs. "It's a rare chance to see what it's like to be in the studio with us day by day as our new album takes shape," says Gadd. "And a significant portion of your pledge will go to an incredible organization that I care about deeply, called MusiCares, which provides assistance for music industry people in great times of need."
This link will take you to YouTube where you can preview the Africa track from the CD.