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Steve Gadd live at Blue Note Tokyo

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    Posted: 29 Mar 2021 at 9:46pm
Steve Gadd Band Captured At Blue Note Tokyo
in New Live Release
Consummate Groovemeister Leads All-Star Ensemble
on Fifth SGB Outing
Available April 2, 2021 on BFM JAZZ

According to Modern Drummer magazine, “Steve Gadd is one of the very few drummers whose innovations changed the way other musicians heard music.” The all-world drummer emerged as a force on the scene in the 1970s through potent and iconic recordings with Chick Corea, Chuck Mangione, Al Di Meola and, most notably, Paul Simon. Gadd’s innovative and eminently infectious beat on Simon’s “50 Ways to Leave Your Lover” grabbed countless ears and is forever encoded in the memory banks of a legion of drummers who followed in his wake.

Gadd has elevated every session, every bandstand that he has appeared on with his deep, relaxed pocket groove. For the Rochester native, who turned 75 last year, it’s all about making the music feel good. And though Gadd has played his share of super-intricate, challenging music throughout his illustrious career spanning five decades, he’s strictly laying in the pocket with that signature organic feel throughout At Blue Note Tokyo, his latest recording on BFM Jazz and a follow-up to 2018’s Grammy-winning Steve Gadd Band. As he said, “I just love to groove. It’s all about just sharing something that feels good.”

The great drummer is joined by longtime Steve Gadd Band members Jimmy Johnson on bass and Walt Fowler on trumpet along with newer member Kevin Hays on keyboards. Guitarist David Spinozza, an associate of Gadd’s from the ‘70s, replaces guitarist Michael Landau in the lineup for this Tokyo engagement. “Michael wasn’t able to do the tour,” Gadd explained, “so I was glad that David could do it. He’s an old friend of mine. I met David years and years ago, before he even came to New York. And then we connected again when I went to the city in the ‘70s and we did a bunch of stuff together — a bunch of bands and recordings. I love the way he plays. It’s just a whole other thing from what Mike does. And he sounds great on this album.”

Spinozza’s stinging, keening, blues-tinged solos resonate with seasoned authority throughout At Blue Note Tokyo on tunes like the Duke Gadd-Michael Landau-penned opener, “Where’s Earth?” and their urgently funky “Rat Race,” as well as on Fowler’s Latin flavored “Timpanogos,” Wilton Felder’s “Way Back Home,” the guitarist’s own earthy blues, “Hidden Drive,” and his jazzy, lyrical “Doesn’t She Know By Now.” Keyboardist Hays, a classic triple threat, alternates between piano and Fender Rhodes throughout the set and offers soulful vocals on his funky “Walk with Me” and on a shuffle blues version of Bob Dylan’s “Watching the River Flow,” a longstanding Gadd favorite. “I recorded that song on a Joe Cocker album that Allen Toussaint produced (1978’s Luxury You Can Afford) and Joe did it like a shuffle. And when I recorded it again with The Gadd Gang (on 1986’s self-titled album for Columbia Records) we also did it as a shuffle.” Gadd would later record that same shuffle version of the Dylan tune (which Bob originally did as a “Mystery Train” type rocker) on 2010’s Live at Voce with organist Joey DeFrancesco, guitarist Paul Bollenback and baritone sax ace Ronnie Cuber.

Another Gadd favorite appearing on At Blue Note Tokyo is the soulful Crusaders anthem, “Way Back Home,” which he previously covered on The Gadd Gang and Live at Voce. “I love that tune,” he said. “The first band I played it with was Stuff. I’ve done it with different bands over the years and with every group of guys it’s just a little different version. There are certain things about that song that really happen naturally and when you get different people playing on it, there’s different things that come out. And it’s always fun.” On previous versions of “Way Back Home,” Gadd played sticks, but this time he plays brushes for a different effect. “My son Carlo and I really spent a lot of time trying to get the brushes and the bass where I like to hear them for the feel,” he explained. “Because brushes can get covered up really easily with other instruments. So I worked hard to try and keep the dynamics from getting too out of hand...to make it the way it was when we played it. And I’m pretty happy with the way this came out, groove-wise. It really feels good.”
Gadd, in fact, placed such a premium on feel throughout At Blue Note Tokyo that he only takes one solo, on Jimmy Johnson’s “One Point Five.” As he said, “I don’t think it necessarily has to go that way, showcasing the chops and soloing all the time. I love to groove and I love listening to those guys playing. It’s just a lot of fun for me.”

The core of the band — Gadd, Fowler and Johnson — originally built their chemistry together while backing James Taylor on tour. Keyboardist Larry Goldings, a charter member of the Steve Gadd Band, also toured with Taylor, as did guitarist Michael Landau. “We all came out of that James Taylor band,” Gadd explained. “And it was our wives who suggested that because we were spending so much time playing together with James that maybe we should just do an instrumental album with the band. That’s really how it came about, and here we are.”

The legendary drummer has spent a lot of time on the road with the likes of James Taylor, Eric Clapton and Paul Simon, as well as having appeared on records by the likes of Steely Dan, Paul McCartney, Joe Cocker, David Sanborn, George Benson, Bob James, Gato Barbieri, Michel Petrucciani, Al Jarreau, Rickie Lee Jones, Edie Brickell, Diana Ross, Dr. John, Stuff and hundreds of others. But with the Steve Gadd Band, he gets to drive the bus. And as At the Blue Note Tokyo proves in no uncertain terms, Gadd is still grooving after all these years.

# # #
AT BLUE NOTE TOKYO will be available at www.bfmjazz.com and everywhere on April 2, 2021.
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