Monday, March 04, 2024

Daily best music in the world: four by Steve Gadd

Taking a moment to dispel a totally absurd impression of Steve Gadd that has somehow formed in recent years: that he is some kind of conservative “groove” player, which... He's extremely influential on the way drums are played now, and the epitome of what a modern player should be, actually— a great jazz drummer, and pop, funk, and fusion drummer, with an incredibly deep groove sense, and musical taste and creativity through the full range of expression possible on the drums. An incredible reader in the sense of handling arrangements creatively and excitingly, and sounding like pure foundation while doing that. 

I don't like getting into superlatives. Just understand, he's the s***. As big a deal as anyone else you can name. It's our job to listen a lot, and figure out why. 

Night Sprite, from Chick Corea's album Leprechaun, is the reason half the drum sets sold today include a 10" tom tom— it inspired a whole generation of fusion players to use them. Or Gadd generally did, and this is the track of his that features it most spectacularly. 

It's also an essay on why the RLLR-LRRL paradiddle inversion is awesome. 

...I don't mention those mundane things because they're the main things that are great about the record. I mention them because they're the only things you can say. The music itself is the explanation of how great it is, there's nothing you can say about it that isn't banal technical point. 

Three Quartets is another huge Chick Corea record— basically a jazz record, but they've brought in some fusion elements, and we've become unused to hearing this deep, fat, fusion-like drum sound in a straight jazz setting. Note that we hear lots of cymbal/bass drum unisons throughout this— all the right hand lead stuff we do leads into this kind of thing. All of that Reed stuff.

There's a lot with both hands in unison as well, on the snare drum and cymbal. And he does some exciting things with the cymbals alone, unsupported by the snare or bass— how he begins the piano solo, for example, after 1:10:

Slamming here, with an extended drum/percussion feature, playing live with saxophonist Tom Scott. It's easy to think of all of modern studio funk/fusion playing— that universal anonymous style— as basically people doing Steve Gadd, but through all of this listening we can hear different things happening, that the generations of influencees did not pick up on. The unisons between the snare drum and bass drum, for example.  

Another mundane technical note, this track has been famous with me for a long time for having the pataflafla-ed 6 stroke rolls— pataflaflas with doubles in the middle. At about 6:35. 

Silly Putty, the first thing in the video below, is not so well known now, but it's one of those era-defining tracks, like Herbie Hancock's Chameleon, or Palm Grease. There was a thing of inventing creative linear funk grooves on the drums at that time. I don't know if Gadd started it, but he certainly led it— you're aware of his famous 50 Ways To Leave Your Lover groove. 

Cool instrumentation there, a quartet (guitar, keyboards) doing the playing, plus nine horns hitting the arranged stuff. Note to self, hire the extra guys. If you listen to that record all the way through, that's Lenny White on the third tune, the rest of it is Gadd. 

Those are all pretty showy recordings, he is of course on a thousand other records. Maybe literally. You can look up more stuff from the 70s/early 80s especially. Do. 

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