Though he’s leading a group of fellow veterans from James Taylor’s touring band, Steve Gadd’s 10th solo album couldn’t have less to do with that easy-going singer-songwriter vibe — or any of Gadd’s countless other rock and pop dates. Instead, the drummer offers an in-the-pocket straight-ahead jazz date on this, his second album for BFM Jazz.
Gadditude, due September 3, 2013, finds this group of familiars swinging through nine tunes — several of them originals by guitarist Michael Landau and keyboardist Larry Goldings, along with a group effort (“Green Foam”) that also includes contributions from trumpeter Walt Fowler, bassist Jimmy Johnson and Gadd. The set is rounded out by energetic new readings of tracks from Keith Jarrett (“Country,” “The Windup”), Abdullah Ibrahim (“The Mountain”) and Radiohead (a closing take on the darkly emotional “Scatterbrain”).
Together, they’ve constructed a rangy album that moves with grace, joy and power — from the regal majesty of their Miles+Gil Evans-influenced “Africa” to the deep city blues feel of “Green Foam,” from the tangy Memphis soul of “The Mountain” to the laid-back profundity of “Who Knows Blues.” Of course, it’s not always easy for a drummer to position himself as the obvious leader on any date, but particularly when surrounded by distinctive voices like Goldings, Landau and Fowler — the last of whom is a Frank Zappa alum. But the well-traveled Gadd is no typical rhythmnist.
Check out how Gadd returns to a variation on his signature cadence on Paul Simon’s “50 Ways to Leave Your Lover” for Goldings’ Fender-driven “Ask Me,” even as he completely rethinks the Jarrett material — going with a tough 3/4 reworking of “Country” and adding this lilting calypso feel to “The Windup.” Elsewhere, he settles into a funky New Orleans street rhythm on “Cavaliero,” another Goldings original. At the same time, though, Gadd — the consummate professional, he’s played on countless recordings from Chick Corea to Steely Dan — is generous enough to let everyone have their moment to shine. He’s first among equals on Gadditude, making for an album that is homey and heartfelt yet never settles.