A fully packed Vaba Lava waited for the appearance of grandmaster drummer Steve Gadd and his band. The audience, which showed a remarkable density of musicians, looked forward in cheerful anticipation to this heavyweight all-star performance. What they got was what they came for: The most enjoyable all around lesson in deeply felt blues, rock, jazz, funk, soul and fusion music of the last 40 to 50 years.
Outstanding in both quality and quantity, Steve Gadd’s discography makes him an iconic figure. Probably most noted for his recording work in the 1970s, Gadd invented the art of “playing the song”, which has shaped the style of popular music since. Always serving and yet unmistakably creative, dry in sound and full of impact, combined with a rudimental rollercoaster, every drummer and drum fan inevitably falls in love. It cannot be stressed enough what a source of inspiration and motivation the figure Steve Gadd provides for musicians, especially drummers – his work must have sparked passion in what are already generations of them.
The Steve Gadd band featured a line up of accomplished musicians who match Gadd’s brilliance and tastiness. Jimmy Johnson on bass formed a symbiotic unity with Gadd. They were as made for each other as foot and boot. Michael Landau’s guitar work held a seldom-heard depth in screaming single-line expression. Walt Fowler’s trumpet playing, while being well interwoven with the band’s rich sound, added the soulful topping to the complete picture. Kevin Hays, at the age of 48 the youngest man on the stage, performed mainly on a Fender Rhodes, sometimes doubling with the grand piano. Stylistically speaking, his playing rose to an almost orgasmic level, bordering predominantly blues, gospel and jazz.
The band took the listeners on a stylistic journey, whilst every song bore those excursions inherently keeping it interesting and entertaining for the audience. Starting off with the jazz rock vibed original “The Windup” by Keith Jarrett, they moved on with a relatively recent selection of the band members’ compositions. Notable among these was Landau’s composition “Africa”, in which Gadd and Johnson demonstrated their true mastery, keeping up a teasing rhythmic ambivalence throughout almost the whole song. Collaborative compositions, such as “Green Foam” featured a more blues-rock rooted and shuffly feel. A set of slow rock and ballad vibed songs was followed by Larry Goldings’ “Sly Boots”, which Gadd finished with a finale furioso on the drums, being the truest possible version of himself.
Two encores were demanded by the audience, the second being Bob Dylan’s “Watching The River Flow”, which featured Kevin Hayes singing, finally getting the audience off its chairs.
Old masters, as true as they can get, laying down some music that will hold true for all time and make its way into the history books of popular music. It must be said that this concert was clearly a document of music and musicianship of different times, refusing the dialect of contemporary instrumental music: the urban and sub-cultural, the fast-pace, the extremes in expression. But being well aware that these were not values to be sought this evening, everybody in the audience seemed humble and deeply grateful for having witnessed this appearance of living legends.
26 April 2017
21:00 Vaba Lava
Steve Gadd – drums
Jimmy Johnson – bass
Michael Landau – guitar
Kevin Hays – rhodes & piano
Walt Fowler – trumpet & flugelhorn
Check out photos from the concert here