Steve Gadd Band takes 2015 by storm with second recording, 70 Strong, celebrating drumming leader’s 70th birthday
Drums master Steve Gadd is among the most respected and emulated musicians in the world - an anomaly whose panache for playing precisely what a piece of music requires plus bringing signature taste, style and energy to the proceedings has resulted in hundreds of the most rhythmically exhilarating moments in recorded music history, across genres.
On April 9, 2015, Stephen Kendall Gadd turns 70. On April 7, BFM Jazz will commemorate the milestone by releasing 70 Strong, the second album by The Steve Gadd Band. This phenomenal instrumental dream quintet of players / composers / arrangers will find their CDs filed under “jazz” but what it more accurately creates is a panoramic sound palette of groove and grace more like novellas for the imagination - as begun with their inaugural 9-song release, Gadditude, in 2013. The Steve Gadd Band is 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 pioneering 5-string bassist Jimmy Johnson (Allan Holdsworth, Billy Childs, Dori Caymmi, Stan Getz).
The ebb and flow of 70 Strong is palpable. Where the material on Gadditude was largely more mellow and meditative, 70 Strong flexes more energy and balance--be it on the wicked 6/8 shakedown of Goldings’ “Sly Boots,” the melodic throb of Landau’s “The Long Way Home,” the soft brushed beauty of Johnson’s “Desu” or the reverent backbeat blues of Fowler’s “Duke’s Anthem” (a loving ode to the memory of his longtime friend George Duke). The choice cover interpretations this time around are Brazilian artist Chico Buarque¹s wistful “De Volta Ao Samba” (title loosely translates as “back to the samba”), an inventive romp through Eddie Harris’ “Freedom Jazz Dance” that sneaks in pieces of other Harris classics (note: Goldings played with Brother Eddie on guitarist John Scofield’s1994 Blue Note Records release, Hand Jive), and, most thrillingly, the spanking they administer to Jan Hammer Group’s 1976 jam classic “Oh, Yeah” - definitively Gaddifying the Czechoslovakian synth wizard’s reverie by decelerating the groove to a simmering pocket then incrementally increasing the heat to savor every bar. And what can one say about the ensemble-penned opener “Foam Home,” a giddy howdy of funky syncopation that is a sequel to the Gadditude CD oddity “Green Foam.” A generous 11 songs total, 70 Strong is a richly satisfying listen.