BFM Jazz 302 062 418 2
Drummer Steve Gadd has had a busy recording year, appearing on discs by Eric Clapton, Bob James and David Sanborn, and the Gaddabouts, his collaboration with Edie Brickell. Gadditude adds to the list a recording made under his own name. The Steve Gadd Band’s debut benefits from the comfort these musicians have from playing together as James Taylor’s touring band -- even the most difficult passages flow easily.
The players are trumpeter Walt Fowler, guitarist Michael Landau, keyboardist Larry Goldings, and bassist Jimmy Johnson -- a list of the musicians each has played with would take up a lot of space and span styles from pop to country to jazz. With a bench that deep, Gadditude bends genres convincingly, including soul, jazz, funk, and 1970s-style fusion, but it also pulls in many other styles. The group’s reimagining of Keith Jarrett’s “Country,” for instance, has a strong country-music undercurrent, especially in Landau’s volume swells, which evoke the sound of a pedal steel guitar. The track remains true to Jarrett’s original conception while introducing something new into it.
Landau’s “Africa” has a touch of Miles Davis’s Bitches Brew and In a Silent Way, with Goldings’s Hammond organ weaving around and under the melody. Landau and Goldings both turn in fine, bluesy solos that expand on the themes stated in the opening, and Fowler follows them with a muted-trumpet solo reminiscent of late Miles. A subtle time shift moves the song into a swing tempo before it returns to its opening statement.
Goldings wrote “Ask Me,” an affecting ballad with a slight flavor of the Middle East that lets him stretch out on Fender Rhodes. The tune builds in emotion and power, with Fowler and Landau contributing carefully developed, well-modulated solos. Gadd moves the song along gracefully, adding soft cymbal strokes to help build drama. Landau’s “Who Knows Blues” is a more straightforward composition, a New Orleans-style jazz tune that highlights the strong blues current that runs through all of Gadditude.
Listeners who’ve followed Gadd throughout his career won’t be surprised at his versatility, but his use of space and time here adds color in ways more reminiscent of Paul Motian’s work than of his session playing in rock settings. He adds color and movement that help each track develop logically, solidly holding down the time while intelligently commenting along the way. The group’s stirring version of Radiohead’s “Scatterbrain” would be unthinkable without Gadd’s intelligence and his commands of rock and jazz.
Every player in this band is a virtuoso, but their years of individual experience in a variety of settings, and the knowledge they obviously have of each other as musicians, let them shine without showing off or flashing. I was unfamiliar with Landau before I heard this disc, but his playing is full of great ideas and warm guitar tones. Fowler brings something valuable and unique to each tune, and Johnson is important in creating a strong foundation throughout the album. Goldings once again challenges both himself and the players who accompany him.
Gadditude is marked by the amount of space these musicians give each other as they carefully listen and respond. John Paterno recorded and mixed the disc, and Bernie Grundman’s mastering ensures that the expansive sound of music well played and carefully developed sounds very good.
. . . Joseph Taylor