On Dec 18, 2019, Steve Gadd took the stage at the Blue Note in Tokyo Japan with Jimmy Johnson on bass, Walt Fowler on trumpet, guitarist David Spinozza and newer member Kevin Hays on keys and vocals as The Steve Gadd Band. What followed is an amazing recording that showcases the players stunning musicianship in a masterclass of style, expertise and taste.
For the first few songs on the recording, Gadd sits naturally back in the pocket. “Doesn’t she know by now” is a great example of Gadd’s masterful control and ability to groove and give his band such a solid platform from which to shine. The casual slip into a halftime funk vamp is the perfect feel to loosen up the audience for what is to come.
“One Point Five” comes in smooth with a Latin groove floating under Walt Fowler’s beautiful trumpet work. Woven together with Hays’ piano lead, the band cruises between Latin and fusion breaks. It’s here that Gadd emerges from the pocket to demonstrate his spellbinding ability to play outside the measure. You find yourself holding your breath with the crowd as he pulls the rug out from under you again and again. This really captures the transcendental nature of Gadd’s playing that has always proved so captivating and exciting for audiences.
“Way Back Home” is the grand showcase of not only the amazing talent Gadd has brought to the stage but also his ability to really drive the band with subtlety and true dynamics. From Fowler’s dancing trumpet lines to Spinozza and Johnson exchanging wicked solo discussions to the churning piano lead that brings the listener to the dynamic mountain crest, you can practically feel the audience overcome with the energy in the final moments of this tune. And here comes Gadd, the dynamic maestro, building from that simple early groove to a thunderous New Orleans Jazz revival explosion.
What I appreciate most about this recording is how I feel like a part of the audience. This night comes to life and I find myself there riding every wave (a real testimony to the mixing). This last year was a heartbreaking year for all of us with no live shows. This performance is such a homecoming for the soul and a testament to Mr. Gadd and his band for bringing it to life and giving us all a chance to be brought to the edge of our seats, at the Blue Note, on an intimate and electric evening.
Check out this promo video for the performance at the Blue Note:
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