Steve Gadd Leads All-Star Crew on Gadditude
Gadd fans, be glad. Gadditude (BFM Jazz) is the latest recording in the lengthy and diverse discography of drummer Steve Gadd, his 10th as a leader. During his remarkable career, which has included extensive sideman work and countless studio sessions, Gadd has had one foot in the pop/rock world (Paul Simon, James Taylor, Eric Clapton) and one in the jazz world (Rahsaan Roland Kirk, Chick Corea, Herbie Mann).
During a recent interview, Gadd discussed his approach to working with so many different artists of divergent styles: “I try to play whatever helps [the music] grow so it’s as good as it could be,” he said. “If a guy is soloing and is really stretching out and playing, real technical and busy, I might not compete with that. I would pick and choose where I was going to do things. I don’t go in with a preconceived way of how I’m going to do it; I try to let the music determine what’s going on.”
Gadditude, released on Sept. 3, might take some longtime fans by surprise. With his groups the Gadd Gang and Stuff, the emphasis was frequently on the funk pocket. Here, the variety of music played by the leader and his band—Larry Goldings on keyboards, Jimmy Johnson on bass, Walt Fowler on trumpet and flugelhorn, and Michael Landau on guitars—ranges from spacey fusion (Landau’s “Africa”) to New Orleans strut (“Who Knows Blues,” another Landau composition).
In addition to originals, Gadd and company play fresh versions of two Keith Jarrett compositions: a gentle waltz arrangement of “Country” and a rollicking “The Windup.” Adding to the mix are other band originals, a Stax/Volt-style arrangement of Abdullah Ibrahim’s “The Mountain” and a reimagining of Radiohead’s “Scatterbrain.”
Jazz listeners might not realize that this is essentially Taylor’s touring band. “Because we’ve been playing with James Taylor for years, I know how well they can play,” Gadd said. “If you have like-minded guys who have done a lot of the same kinds of jobs that I’ve done, in terms of different genres of music, then the process is fun. You just sort of relax with it and allow it to happen. There are decisions that have to be made along the way, and I have to make them. But if you let the music dictate where you’re going, then the decisions aren’t as difficult. Plus, you have a bunch of other guys you can trust, and you can ask their opinions, too, and that’s just the way it worked.
“I loved the way everyone played on the album. All of these guys—I get to hear them play when we work with James, but it’s a treat to hear them stretch out a little more. I look forward to when we play live, because I think it will open up more. As long as we’re all listening to each other, I think it’s going to be a heck of a ride, and I’m looking forward to it. We’re going to go out and do some things this fall, in Japan and Korea, and in the States, on the West Coast, and hopefully after that, do some things in Europe. I think getting a chance to play live, the music’s going to open up and just blossom, like a flower.”
Gadd also discussed his work with Clapton: “I love playing with Eric—he’s a great musician, good player, good businessman, a good person. It’s a win-win situation for me. It’s an honor to play with Eric, he gives it 110 percent every time he goes out and plays.”
Given the diversity of the artists he has worked with over the years, Gadd won’t state a preference for any specific style. “I love it all,” he said. “If it’s good music, it’s great to be a part of. Being a drummer, I love when the groove gets real intense, when it really starts to burn. But you know what? Even if it’s ‘free’ stuff, if it’s real, I love it. I think that picking and choosing favorites can make you put the blinders on. It’s better to be open to everything.”
—Martin Z. Kasdan Jr.