It’s not every day you have the pleasure of reviewing an album as good as Gadditude by the West Coast ensemble, the Steve Gadd Band, drummer Gadd’s tenth outing as leader of a group of musicians better know for their association with James Taylor and a host of others, including Steely Dan and Chick Corea, and on this recording we are the beneficiaries of many musical styles, primarily American, since the mid 1960s.
My only quibble is that I might have arranged the tracks differently, bookending the collection’s nine compositions – five originals- with the upbeat Cavaliero and Green Foam, which for me capture the charming and relaxed essence of this quite extraordinary achievement: the CD tails off with Radiohead’s Scatterbrain, an interesting – if unconvincing – experiment. Brad Mehldau it is not.
Legend has it that U2’s last album (can’t remember the name) was recorded across several continents, in numerous studios and over four years, and still wasn’t very good when the odyssey concluded in talismanic Dublin.
However, the musicians on Gadditude, among the most accomplished in the business in any genre, took a week to record one of the best records you will hear in the past 12 months in guitarist’s Michael Landau’s studio. The moral of the story is magic happens when a tight quintet of gifted musical friends are left alone in a studio that happens to be in Pacific Palisades in California.
Mood is established from the beginning with Landau’s Africa, recalling the Bitches Brew era of Miles Davis, the body of the tune held together by Landau’s slinky guitar and Larry Goldings’ hovering Hammon organ cushion. Gadd’s love of snare drum is the backbone of Goldings’ Ask Me, a ballad that could have been composed to the ebb and flow of the sea: the band steps from the shadows in, naturally, Keith Jarrett’s Country, with stupendous horn by Walt Fowler.
Next are two tour-de-forces, like a segued San Andreas Fault, and both originals, the exceptional Cavaliero and Green Foam. They are intrinsically Californian in tempo, with Gadd’s behind the beat groove in the first and a catchy Landau guitar in the second, recalling the bluesy experimentation of The Doors’ Morrison Hotel. Two excellent tracks for the car, with a long and clear road ahead, a cerulean sky above and a missus or two in the front and back.
Landau’s guitar is gorgeous on the Abdullah Ibrahim-composed The Mountain, with a memorable solo from Walt Fowler, who also came into his own on the previous track, Green Foam. The Mountain isn’t an extension of the grooving riff of Cavaliero and Green Foam, but is unique of itself, and the energized romp and jazz flavoured shuffle with a velvety rhythm cushion returns for Who Knows Blues and The Windup. This is the album for the summer ahead.