Album reviews

Steve Gadd Band – ‘At Blue Note Tokyo’

Steve Gadd Band – At Blue Note Tokyo

(BFM Jazz 6218346762. Album review by Adam Sieff)

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It should come as no surprise that the Steve Gadd Band’s latest album is tasteful and deeply grooving, as that’s been the 75-year-old drummer’s M.O. since the 1970s. Recorded one evening in December 2019 during a four night booking at the Blue Note Tokyo, it follows on from the previous year’s Steve Gadd Band studio release which won a Grammy Award for Best Contemporary Instrumental Album.

The major difference this time is the presence of guitarist David Spinozza deputising for Michael Landau who was unable to make the tour. An old friend and colleague of Gadd, ‘Spin’ fits in perfectly and brings another dimension to the band. And what a band this is – there’s bassist Jimmy Johnson and trumpeter Walt Fowler who both played with Gadd in James Taylor’s band, and keyboard player Kevin Hays.

The two sets were recorded by the Blue Note’s front of house sound engineer Junto Fukuhara, then the tracks were selected and mixed by Gadd and his son Giancarlo before mastering by Rich Breen. The sound is excellent with the respectful Tokyo audience keeping their enthusiasm in check.

If you’ve heard Gadd’s previous recordings as a leader or as a former member of super-sessioners Stuff you’ll have an idea what to expect. As Gadd says, ‘I just love to groove. It’s all about just sharing something that feels good.’ His playing is as wonderful as ever, clean and tight with great finesse making every beat really count. There is some wonderful music here, it’s engaging, entertaining and superbly performed.

I’ve been a fan of Spinozza since hearing his one take solo on Dr John’s Right Place Wrong Time. I enjoyed his melodic blues Hidden Drive which was previously recorded on L’Image 2.0. in 2010, which finally captured the unrecorded early seventies Woodstock based band featuring Gadd, Spinozza, Michael Mainieri, Tony Levin and Warren Bernhardt. There are fine solos from Hays, Fowler and Johnson on this but Spinozza owns it – his touch, timing and tone are impeccable. It was also a pleasure to hear his composition Doesn’t She Know By Now from his 1777 solo album.

Fowler plays trumpet with subtlety and taste, and his Timpanogos features a lilting melody and a light flowing groove with everyone taking their solo spots well. The interplay and harmony unison lines between trumpet and guitar are beautiful. Johnson’s One Point Five, one of the four songs from the previous studio album is an irresistible latin groove that features some wonderful Fowler trumpet and Gadd’s only drum solo on the album. But that makes it stand out all the more, and harks back to his solo on ‘Aja’ recorded 44 years ago.

Hays adds vocals on two tracks, his own Walk With Me from the Riverbeast album he recorded with Gadd and Tony Scherr with Dutch harmonica player Hermine Deurloo, and a fun shuffle blues version of Bob Dylan’s Watching the River Flow.

Wilton Felder of The Crusaders’ Way Back Home has been a highlight of the band’s live set for some time, but this time Gadd plays brushes for a different effect. The feel is light with Fowler’s trumpet setting the tone and Johnson’s bass swapping with Spinozza’s guitar before Hays’ piano builds to a crescendo and a strong ending.

Classy, tasteful and just gorgeous. File under Groove.

LINK: BFM Jazz website

1 reply »

  1. Pity the album does not include any on the more lively Youtube clip.
    I find the album well recorded, well performed, gentle and nice. However I think it is little too gentle and polite. I know all of them can go out a bit more from there ”comfort zone” but they just don’t do it. This makes the album a bit sleepy in my view. Waste o talent in one way.

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