New Zealand jazz fans are in for a special treat this month, with four concerts around the country by drummer Steve Gadd and saxophonist James Carter, accompanied by the Rodger Fox Big Band.
Inducted into the Modern Drummer Hall of Fame in 1984, Steve Gadd is one of the most highly regarded session and studio drummers in the industry. His performances on Paul Simon's hit single 50 Ways to Leave Your Lover and Steely Dan's seminal album Aja are two of the best known examples of his extraordinary technical talent and versatility. Gadd has worked with a plethora of top rock and jazz musicians over the years, including Chet Baker, Kate Bush, Eric Clapton, Joe Cocker, Chick Corea, Jim Croce, Paul Desmond, Al Di Meola, Al Jarreau, Bob James, Jon Bon Jovi, Paul McCartney, Michael McDonald, Michel Petrucciani, Manhattan Transfer, Lee Ritenour, David Sanborn, Carly Simon, Simon & Garfunkel, Frank Sinatra, James Taylor, The Bee Gees, and Grover Washington Jr. In 2005, Gadd was awarded an honorary Doctor of Music degree from the Berklee College of Music for outstanding contributions to contemporary music, and his 2016 live recording Way Back Home: Live from Rochester, NY was nominated for Best Contemporary Instrumental Album at the 59th Grammy Awards. Chick Corea has commented, "Every drummer wants to play like Gadd because he plays perfect ... He has brought orchestral and compositional thinking to the drum kit while at the same time having a great imagination and a great ability to swing."
Gadd grew up in Irondequoit, a suburb of Rochester, New York. When he was seven years old, his uncle, a drummer in the US army, encouraged him to take lessons. His early influences included Buddy Rich, Elvin Jones, Tony Williams, and the 'less is more' style of Rick Marotta. He attended the Manhattan School of Music for two years, before transferring to the Eastman School of Music in Rochester, playing in wind ensembles and concert bands. After finishing college in the late 1960s, he played regularly with Chuck Mangione and his brother Gap. His first recording was on Gap Mangione's debut solo album, Diana in the Autumn Wind (1968).
Gadd was drafted and spent three years as a drummer in the Army Music Program, mostly in Fort Meade, Maryland. While living in the Washington D.C. area, he briefly took lessons from noted jazz drummer Michael S. Smith. Following his military service, he returned to Rochester, forming a trio in 1972 with Tony Levin and Mike Holmes, and later moving to New York with them. After the trio split up, Gadd started working mainly as a studio musician. In the 1970s and 1980s he played with Chick Corea's Return to Forever and Al Di Meola's Electric Rendezvous Band. In 1975, Gadd played drums on Van McCoy and the Soul City Symphony's hit single The Hustle.That same year, he contributed the instantly recognizable drum intro and shuffle beat behind Paul Simon's 50 Ways to Leave Your Lover . He also demonstrated his strengths in his work on the title track of Steely Dan's ground-breaking Aja album, including solos under both Wayne Shorter's tenor sax solo and in the song's tag. He participated on Chick Corea's straight-ahead jazz albums Friends and Three Quartets, as well as Jim Hall's Concierto. In 1976, Gadd formed the group Stuff, with fellow session musicians Richard Tee, Eric Gale, and Cornell Dupree, appearing on Saturday Night Live, both performing on their own and backing Joe Cocker. In 1979, Gadd performed a drum solo on Carly Simon's Spy album, and also played drums for one of Charles Mingus' posthumous tracks, Three Worlds of Drums, from the album Me, Myself an Eye, which featured five percussionists.
Gadd was a featured performer in Paul Simon's 1980 movie One Trick Pony. Simon's hit Late in the Evening played over the main title sequence, into which Gadd incorporated the Mozambique, a Cuban dance rhythm. In 1981, he accompanied the famous Simon & Garfunkel's Concert in Central Park. Frank Sinatra's 1984 studio album LA Is My Lady featured a large orchestra of many top session musicians, including Gadd, under the direction of Quincy Jones. He played on Grover Washington Jr.'s Winelight and Come Morning albums, as well as a live video concert recording. Gadd recorded and toured with Eric Clapton in 1994 and 1996 and again from 1997 - 2004. In 1997, he embarked on a world tour with French musician Michel Pertucciani and bassist Anthony Jackson that was captured on the Trio in Tokyo and Live in Stuttgart albums. He has also continued to work with Paul Simon, joining him for numerous live concerts over the years, often alongside Brazilian percussionist Airto Moreira.
Gadd played on the blues album Riding with the King, alongside B.B. King, Eric Clapton, and Jimmie Vaughan. In 2009, he rejoined Clapton's band to play eleven nights at London's Albert Hall, and was part of Clapton's touring band throughout that year. Also in 2009, Gadd reunited with his band from 1973, "L'Image", featuring Mike Mainieri, Warren Bernhardt, David Spinozza, and Tony Levin, performing at the Iridium Jazz Club in New York, touring Japan, and releasing the album L'Image 2.0. In 2011, he worked with Kate Bush on her 50 Words for Snow album. She admitted to wanting to work with Gadd for a long time, but not having the courage to approach him, and described him as "a sweet person, really down to earth … [whose] interpretation of music is so sophisticated.” In 2014, he toured with James Taylor. One of the most influential drummers of all time, Gadd has put an indelible stamp on the sound of contemporary rock, jazz, blues, fusion, and pop, consistently setting new standards and launching a thousand imitators. His influence can be heard in the playing of everyone from Vinnie Colaiuta to Carter Beauford. If there is a form of music that he hasn’t played, the chances are it hasn’t been invented yet.
Saxophone colossus James Carter has an equally impressive track record. Born in Detroit, he learned to play under the tutelage of Donald Washington, becoming a member of his youth jazz ensemble Bird-Trane-Sco-NOW!! He attended Blue Lake Fine Arts Camp and become one of the youngest faculty members at the camp. He first toured Europe with the International Jazz Band in 1985 at the age of 16. In May 1988, he was a last-minute addition for guest artist Lester Bowie at the Detroit Institute of Arts, which turned into an invitation to play with his new quintet (forerunner of his New York Organ Ensemble). This proved to be a pivotal moment in Carter's career, introducing him to a large and highly appreciative audience. He moved to New York two years later and has remained a stellar fixture in the jazz universe as a both a live performer and recording artist ever since. Carter has won Down Beat magazine's Critics and Readers Choice award for baritone saxophone several years in a row. He is also an authority on vintage saxophones and owns an extensive collection, including one formerly played by Don Byas.
An accomplished multi-instrumentalist, entirely fluent on a variety of saxophones, flutes, and clarinets, Carter's early appearance on the Tough Young Tenors album provided a somewhat one-dimensional demonstration of his skills. He has a vividly explosive sound, reminiscent of Frank Lowe (with whom he has recorded) and similarly influenced by Byas and Chu Berry. The intriguing selection of tunes on his 1993 debut recording JC On The Set was an indication that Carter likes to make his own choices, from Byas' Worried and Blue, Sun Ra's Hour of Parting, the little-known Texan John Hardee's Lunatic, to Duke Ellington's more familiar Caravan and Sophisticated Lady. The opening bars of his own Blues for A Nomadic Princess suggest some long-forgotten by-blow of Ellington's, while the climax tips his hat to John Coltrane and Albert Ayler. What is perhaps most striking about these tracks is how much like himself Carter manages to sound on all his various bass saxes, clarinets, and other horns, even when he is paying explicit homage to saxophone giants of the past.
Carter's Elektrik Outlet is a new configuration, within which he has found fresh grooves to explore and arrange. Adding energy to the group are fellow Detroit artists Gerard Gibbs on electronic keyboards, Ralphe Armstrong on electric bass, and Alex White on drums. Shifting his sax through an array of electronics and pedals has allowed Carter to tap into that 'frustrated guitarist' he has often described himself to be. A selection of tunes from Eddie Harris, Gene Ammons, Al Jarreau, Stevie Wonder, Minnie Ripperton, and others provides an outlet for his band to seamlessly sizzle, slide, and pop. “James Carter has cemented his reputation as one of the most adventurous, visionary young red platers on the cusp of the new millennium … Not as an outsider, but as one of the most exciting.” - Chip Stern, Jazz Times.
To give some idea of Carters extraordinary range and versatility, here's a partial discography of his previous collaborations -
With the Art Ensemble of
Salutes the Chicago Blues Tradition (AECO, 1993)
With Jayne Cortez & The Firespitters'
Cheerful & Optimistic (Bola Press, 1994)
With Lester Bowie's
New York Organ Ensemble
The Organizer (DIW, 1991)
Funky T. Cool T. (DIW, 1992)
Cyrus Chestnut (Atlantic, 1998)
the Julius Hemphill Sextet
Fat Man and the Hard Blues (Black Saint, 1991)
Five Chord Stud (Black Saint, 1994)
With Wynton Marsalis
Blood on the Fields (Columbia, 1995)
So Many Stars (Sony Classical, 1995)
Dreamland (Atlantic, 1996)
With Hamiet Bluiett
Libation for the Baritone Saxophone Nation (Justin Time, 1998)
Bluiett Baritone Saxophone Group Live at the Knitting Factory (Knitting Factory, 1998)
Gershwin's World (Verve, 1998)
Tenor Legacy (Arkadia Jazz, 1998)
With Ginger Baker and the DGQ20
Coward of the County (Atlantic, 1999)
SciFi (Verve, 2000)
Motor City Moments (Verve, 2000)
M² (Telarc, 2001)
With Dee Dee
Eleanora Fagan (1915-1959): To Billie with Love from Dee Dee Bridgewater (EmArcy, 2010)
STEVE GADD & JAMES CARTER WITH THE RODGER FOX BIG BAND TOUR ITINERARY:
PALMERSTON NORTH- The Globe Theatre - 8 PM
WELLINGTON - Opera House - 8 PM
CHRISTCHURCH - Isaac Theatre Royal - 7 PM
AUCKLAND - Bruce Mason Centre - 8 PM
Educational workshops will also run in Auckland, Wellington, and Christchurch.